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Initiative nears $3M to aid Greater Latrobe School District arts, academics, athletics

| Tuesday, April 2, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

An initiative to raise money to support Greater Latrobe School District academics, arts and athletics through donations rather than tax dollars has reached about $3 million and continues to grow, a member of the fundraising group said.

The A+ Campaign Committee and the Greater Latrobe Partners in Education Foundation have joined forces to raise between $3 million and $5 million to support various school projects, said James R. Okonak, one of 10 members of the A+ Campaign Committee. While the school district has released news about the three-pronged campaign, it “still is in the quiet phase,” Okonak said.

The nonprofit foundation was formed to provide philanthropic opportunities for individuals, organizations and businesses to support Greater Latrobe and its students strategically, the organization said in a statement.

The A+ Campaign for Greater Latrobe strives to provide a balanced focus on academics, arts and athletics, the organization said. Each component of the A+ Campaign has a dynamic virtual tour that can be viewed online at the foundation's website,

The academics goal includes the comprehensive GLOBAL classroom initiative, which involves cutting-edge technology integration in all classrooms from kindergarten to 12th grade. The goal is to equip every classroom with 21st-century technology appropriate for grade level and academic discipline.

The A+ Campaign assists with the development of a $9.5 million multipurpose athletic and wellness complex on the junior-senior high school campus.

While the complex will provide athletic fields and a fieldhouse for Greater Latrobe's sports teams, school officials have said it also will be available for use by the district's 2,000 students, including those in physical education classes, as well as a resource for community groups.

Hank Tkacik, an architect with Axis Architecture of North Huntingdon, the district's architect on the project, told the Greater Latrobe School Board last month that the project was on schedule to be completed in autumn. Site preparations began late last year.

The third goal of the campaign is to renovate the junior high school entrance and main building corridor, often called the long hallway. This hallway formerly housed all the student lockers and is an underutilized space in the heart of the building.

This proposed renovation will take a dark and vacant space and transform it to provide flexible space for the new junior high art collection and student instruction. The renovation is modeled on the existing unique art collections at the senior high and elementary schools and the district's Center for Student Creativity, according to district officials.

The A+ Campaign improvements will enable students to experience original art and enhance the culture of the junior high school, school authorities said. The renovation to the entrance will improve security in the building for after-school events and form a secure and attractive entrance and exit for the building.

Among the strongest supporters of the A+ Campaign are Greater Latrobe alumnus Ray Mt. Joy and his wife, Pam, who have agreed to co-chair the campaign.

Mt. Joy said he owes a significant amount of his success in business and life to his educational experience as a student at Greater Latrobe.

“My wife, Pam, and I can't think of a better organization to support and give our time to than Greater Latrobe School District,” he said in a statement.

“Our involvement is partially an expression of gratitude for the impact the district has had on our lives, but it is primarily motivated by the need to ensure that GLSD continues to be a world-class school district for today's children, and for generations to come in this outstanding community,” Mt. Joy said.