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Site tour of new Twin Rivers school leaves McKeesport Area officials aglow

| Thursday, May 16, 2013, 10:47 a.m.
Cindy Shegan Keeley | Daily News
McKeesport Area School District officials meet with PJ Dick representatives on a Wednesday tour of the new Twin Rivers Primary/Intermediate School. The cafeteria is an open design with plenty of natural light.
Cindy Shegan Keeley | Daily News
McKeesport Area Superintendent Timothy Gabauer talks with Roberto J. Fratangelo of PJ Dick in the mechanical room that will be surrounded by glass for educational viewing opportunities.
Cindy Shegan Keeley | Daily News
McKeesport Area School District's new Twin Rivers Primary/Intermediate School is taking shape along Cornell Street.

McKeesport Area School District's newest building is taking shape.

District officials toured the partially completed Twin Rivers Primary/Intermediate School on Wednesday, some for the first time.

“It's fabulous. It takes my breath away,” school board president Patricia Maksin said of the massive structure that will house half of the district's kindergarten through fifth-grade students. “I'm so thrilled because this is the 21st-century facility that our kids deserve.”

School district officials last year modified a plan that called for three primary/intermediate schools for kindergarten through sixth grade, changing it to two new buildings for kindergarten through fifth grade and an addition at Founders Hall Middle School for sixth-graders. The K-5 group will be divided between the renovated Francis McClure in White Oak and the new Twin Rivers in McKeesport.

At the start of the 2013-14 school year, students destined for Twin Rivers will attend classes at the Centennial and George Washington schools. They are scheduled to move to the new school in January.

The new building will have two-story wings for primary and intermediate programs, with common space in between for a cafeteria, gymnasium, library and other learning areas.

One unique feature will be a glass-framed mechanical room that includes portions of the geothermal heating and cooling system.

“These things are always hidden in boiler rooms,” Superintendent Timothy Gabauer said. “Everything will be color coded and right here on display with signs to explain what's happening inside.”

Teachers will use the room as a tool to link to a math and science academy that will be a portion of the Twin Rivers curriculum. The room also will help the building achieve LEED certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.

School director Terri Kisan said the progress of the construction is a sign of great things to come for students.

“I'm so excited for these kids,” Kisan said. “They're going to have every opportunity to achieve their full potential in a comfortable learning environment.”

Gabauer, who took his fifth tour of the site on Wednesday, said every step in the process makes the construction more exciting and its completion highly anticipated.

“Over the last 45 days, the progress has been significant,” he said. “They were hoping for good weather in April, and that's exactly what they had. They're on track for December, and they're going to work on one section at a time. You'll see the building coming together piece by piece.”

Roberto J. Fratangelo of project managers PJ Dick said construction is on track.

“Everything is still weather permitting, but with the progress that has been made in the last few weeks, we should be completed by the scheduled date,” he said.

Fratangelo said the building's aesthetics and architectural design are state-of-the-art.

“Even during construction, you can see the amount of light that will come into the common spaces,” Fratangelo said. “No matter where you are in this building, there is natural light coming in.”

District officials said they can't wait to see how the project evolves in coming weeks and months. They want the public to drive past and observe the progress as the building continues to take shape.

“It's going to be the showplace of Allegheny County,” Maksin said. “It's going to set the standard for elementary buildings.”

Jennifer R. Vertullo is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-664-9161 ext. 1956, or jvertullo@tribweb.com.

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