Freeport Area has big plans for new middle school
When Freeport Area School District broke ground for 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, each classroom will have wireless internet and an electronic smart board, not to mention a bigger library, a full-sized 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 on South Pike Road (Route 356) in Buffalo Township and will replace the 90-year-old junior high in Freeport.
The district conducted 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 either 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 junior high in Freeport was built in 1924 and was expanded twice since then, in 1949 and 1967.
There are problems with the roof, electrical system and the site and quality of space are in poor condition.
Buffalo's population growth has been steady, from about 6,200 in 1990 to about 7,300, census figures show.
Though 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 certainly 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 (VOCs) 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. On the east side will be the library, cafeteria, auditorium and the gym, as well as the music and band rooms.
It is designed to house each grade level in its own “neighborhood” of classrooms with a computer lab, 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.
Also new would be a semester-long STEM course for sixth grade. The hands-on class covering science, technology, engineering and math concepts is still being developed, Robb said.
A new 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.