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Kiski Area Upper Elementary School makes debut in new school year

| Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2013, 7:25 a.m.
Erica Dietz | Valley News Dispatch
Nicole Gross, 10, and her mother, Laura, get familiar with Nicole's new locker during fifth-grade orientation at the new Kiski Area Upper Elementary School in Washington Township on Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2013.
Erica Dietz | Valley News Dispatch
Nick Jones, of Vandergrift, peers inside the new library with his 9-year-old stepdaughter, Gwenyth Painter, during orientation at the new Kiski Area Upper Elementary School in Washington Township on Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2013.
Erica Dietz | Valley News Dispatch
Kiski Area Upper Elementary School teachers Brad Holmes and Kelly Flemm greet people as they enter the new school during sixth-grade orientation on Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2013.
Erica Dietz | Valley News Dispatch
Justin Lubik carries his 6-year-old daughter, Jordyn, through the halls of the new Kiski Area Upper Elementary School with his wife, Renee, all of Parks Township, as they attend orientation with their 10-year-old daughter, Lexus, (not pictured) on Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2013.
Erica Dietz | Valley News Dispatch
Hailey Bollinger, 10, and her mother Gina, both of Allegheny Township, are greeted by Hailey's fifth-grade reading teacher Camille Karlo during the fifth-grade orientation at the new Kiski Area Upper Elementary School in Washington Township on Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2013.

Lou Mascarello is not ready for his little girl to head off to college ­— and at 10, she isn't, either.

But college is what Kiski Area Upper Elementary School looks and feels like to Chloe Mascarello, a fifth-grader from Washington Township who will be among the first students attending the new school this fall.

“It's very big, and I like it,” she said. “I can't wait to start school here.”

Kiski Area School District threw open the doors of the new $20 million school to students and parents for a grand opening and orientation Tuesday evening.

While a little rough around the edges, the school, built at the site of the former North Washington Elementary School, will open on Tuesday for about 540 fifth- and sixth-grade students.

Some tile work inside the building and landscaping outside remain to be finished.

The gymnasium will not be done until the fall.

Principal Joshua Weaver said physical education classes will be held outside. Students will focus on health classes to start.

Staff and students will go without air conditioning for a week or two.

“I know it's not done yet. When it's finished it will look nice,” said Leon Everett of Vandergrift, whose stepson, James Reid, 10, will be in fifth grade.

While farther away, Everett said he likes the new school's open setting and its parking. James said the school is “nicer and bigger” than Kiski Area East Primary, formerly Vandergrift Elementary.

“I think the more comfortable the kids are, the easier it will be for them to learn,” said his mom, Laura Everett.

Students are being moved to the school from the district's elementary schools, which will become K-4 buildings. At the Upper Elementary, they'll be mixed together.

“It's going to be fun meeting all the other kids and making new friends,” said Bryson Venanzio, 11, a sixth-grader from Allegheny Township.

Tracey Lowe figures the new school will make things easier for her fifth-grade son, Nick, 10. They've just moved back to the area from North Carolina.

“Everybody is going to be new to the school. Everybody is going to be lost,” she said. “It's going to be a good start for him.”

Not everything is new for the school's students; there are familiar faces and names among the teachers and staff.

Among them is school secretary Jen Bowman, who is coming from Bell-Avon Elementary in Bell Township, which closed at the end of the 2012-13 school year.

“I've seen it all. I've watched it transform,” Bowman said of the new school. “It's awesome. I think it's great.

“I think the kids are going to have a great opportunity.”

The school will have a full-time counselor, Weaver said.

That it will have its own full-time nurse in Valerie Zanotti was met with applause. Her time was previously split between three or four elementary schools.

“It's nice,” she said. “I'll get to know the kids and the parents a lot better.”

The school will run on what is known as a six-day schedule. Students will rotate through core classes and specials such as art and music every six days instead of once every five days. It will allow students to not miss any classes due to snow days or holidays, especially Mondays.

They'll change classrooms, but won't have to walk far, as classrooms are grouped together.

“It's nice how they keep them close. You can't get lost,” said Jim Mundy, of Allegheny Township, whose son, James, will be in fifth grade. “I'm impressed with the school.

“The only thing I'm not impressed with is no air conditioning.”

The school will employ a practice called “looping” — the teachers students have for fifth grade this year will be their teachers for sixth grade.

Humanities teacher Brad Holmes said the new setting should help students mature more quickly.

“They'll get a feel for how the intermediate school and high school work as well. It's going to be a big change for them,” said Holmes, who taught fourth grade last school year at Washington Elementary and will teach fifth grade this year.

“It's a nice facility. When everything is done it will be extremely nice. I know the kids will take great pride in it as well.”

Brian C. Rittmeyer is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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