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Freeport board gets update on school

| Thursday, Oct. 3, 2013, 7:27 a.m.

The architectural firm for Freeport Area School District's junior high building project anticipates going before Buffalo Township officials for building permit and other approvals in December.

Architect Greer Hayden with HHSDR Engineers told the school board on Wednesday that the firm anticipates seeking bids for the project in January and awarding a construction contract in February.

Once winter breaks, construction would begin behind the high school along Route 356 (South Pike Road) in Buffalo Township, he said.

The $30 million school is scheduled to open in fall 2015.

The firm updated the board on small changes that have been made since a public presentation in the spring.

Many of the classroom modifications were made based on feedback from teachers and administrators.

They include:

• The addition of a 600-foot-long walkway between the junior high and high school.

• Increasing the size of the fitness room near the gym.

• Moving the art room to the opposite side of the building near the technical education room.

• Repositioning the cafeteria kitchen from along the left side of the room to the rear.

• Shifting the eighth-grade science lab to a wall that allows access to a courtyard, which can be used for teaching.

• Commissioning a traffic study that is under way to determine the viability of building an access road from the school campus to Monroe Road near the Sheetz gas station.

One point of debate among board members is the size of the auditorium. The room is designed to seat about 500 people, about the same number as the high school auditorium.

The board requested that HHSDR create a drawing that shows the school with a 600-seat auditorium, along with the increased building costs associated with the expansion.

“It's going to be our major auditorium for our events,” Dr. John Marty Jr. said. “We're going to have the use of a brand-new facility for our kids and our schools and our arts.”

He noted that the junior high gym is being built so that it can be used by varsity sports teams.

Also as part of HHSDR's presentation, Hayden pointed out that the school is being constructed with safety in mind.

Security was a main concern for administrators and board members because of the massacre in December at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.

Visitors to the school will enter into a glass-enclosed room at the main entrance before being admitted into the main office. The building secretary will be able to see anyone approaching the entrance from an office window.

Exterior doors will be double-paned glass. The outer pane will be safety glass similar to that in automobiles, Hayden said. It isn't bulletproof, but it would take extraordinary effort to break through.

Title IX expert considered

The school board will consider next week whether to hire a consultant to help it determine if the district is in compliance with Title IX, the federal law that requires school districts to offer equal athletic opportunities and facilities to boys and girls.

The assessment would cost $1,500 and be done by Peg Pennepacker, of High School Title IX Consulting Service. She is also State College Area School District's athletic director and is widely considered an expert on Title IX issues.

She would conduct a one-day visit in November to assess everything from athletic facilities, equipment, uniforms and booster clubs.

The information would be plugged into an established formula to determine compliance.

Freeport Area's Athletic Director Todd O'Shell would be trained to conduct future Title IX compliance audits for the district.

Board members said the audit is necessary because of the number of requests they have received for new school-sponsored sports such as wrestling and lacrosse as well as for the addition of junior high sports teams.

“We want to be sure we're completely in compliance,” O'Shell said.

The goal is to be within a 5 percent variance between girls and boys sports offerings, he said.

Jodi Weigand is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4702 or jweigand@tribweb.com.

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