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Freeport Area School District envisions new middle school as 'asset to community'

| Sunday, July 13, 2014, 12:01 a.m.
Erica Dietz | Valley News Dispa
Freeport Area High School Athletic Director Todd O'Shell photographs the school board members and other officials as they ceremoniously break ground to kick off construction of the new Freeport Middle School in Buffalo Township on Tuesday, July 8, 2014. The $30 million middle school will be built behind the current Freeport Area High School off of Route 356. The building will house about 500 students in grades 6 through 8. It will replace the current middle school in Freeport. The district hopes to open the new building for the start of the 2015-16 school year.

When Freeport Area School District broke ground on its middle school, administrators already were planning what will happen within its walls in 2015.

Science classrooms will have full labs, the technical education rooms will be state-of-the-art, and each classroom will have wireless Internet and an electronic smart board. Also planned are a bigger library, a full-size gym and a 500-seat auditorium for musical and stage productions.

“We're excited to get started, and it's going to be a benefit for the kids to have the facility that we're planning,” said Larry Robb, the district's education program director. “We're able to do some things in terms of efficiencies with staffing and course offerings, being that both buildings will be on the same campus.”

The $33 million school for grades six through eight is being built behind the Freeport Area Senior High School on South Pike Road (Route 356) in Buffalo Township. It will replace the 90-year-old junior high school in Freeport.

The district held a ground-breaking ceremony Tuesday.

The district plans to close the old junior high and the Kindergarten Center in Freeport. Kindergarten students will move to South Buffalo or Buffalo elementary school, depending on where they live.

Right now, students in grades one to six attend the elementary schools. The elementary configuration would change to kindergarten through grade five.

The middle school project stemmed from a facilities study the district undertook in 2011.

The current junior high in Freeport was built in 1924 and was expanded twice since then, in 1949 and 1967.

There are problems with the roof and the electrical system, and the site and quality of space are in poor condition.

Although the district raised taxes in 2013 to help pay for the project, school board president Dan Lucovich said closing two deteriorated buildings will ultimately save taxpayers money.

The school will improve educational opportunities, he said.

“The school is going to be all modern with all new technology,” Lucovich said. “With the way technology changes and the way student education has changed, it will be an asset to the community.”

The one-story middle school is designed to be energy- and water-efficient and is to be constructed with sustainable materials that are able to minimize the levels of volatile organic compounds and similar chemicals.

It will use natural ventilation and daylight to reduce energy consumption and costs. Each room will have occupancy sensors for lighting.

The classrooms will be on the west side of the building. The library, cafeteria, auditorium, gym, and music and band rooms will be on the east side.

It is designed to house each grade level in its own “neighborhood” of classrooms with a computer lab, and science and special education rooms.

The science classrooms and library are built around a courtyard.

“We designed the building to make sure our science teachers will have access to the courtyard so they can take the kids outside and do some of their lessons out there,” Robb said. “The labs are an upgrade from what we currently have at the junior high. They're full-fledged science labs, which we don't have at the seventh- and eighth-grade level.”

Also improved is the technical education classroom, which will have a “dirty room” for machinery and a “clean room” for design and classroom work.

“The music wing is definitely a major upgrade,” Robb added. “We'll have smaller classrooms for lessons.”

Curriculum changes include 80 to 85 minute double periods for math and English as well as possibly offering a keyboarding class to sixth-graders.

Right now, keyboarding is offered in seventh grade as part of the business program.

New would be a semester-long STEM course for sixth grade. The hands-on class covering science, technology, engineering and math concepts is being developed, Robb said.

A fitness room will allow cardio and weight training to be incorporated into gym classes, Robb said.

“We wanted to introduce the concept of lifelong fitness and incorporate that into (physical education),” he said.

And now that the junior and senior high will share the same campus, administrators are hoping the two buildings can share teachers.

They're looking at offering foreign language to eighth-graders, Robb said. The offering will depend on staffing availability, he said.

“We'll be meeting with the teachers this fall and looking at program changes in more detail, and they'll be planning for next school year,” he said.

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

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