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New McKeesport Area school gets vote of confidence

Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News - Finishing touches remain incomplete above the intermediate entrance to the new Twin Rivers school in McKeesport.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News</em></div>Finishing touches remain incomplete above the intermediate entrance to the new Twin Rivers school in McKeesport.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News - Workers tend to construction-related tasks above the primary entrance at the new Twin Rivers school.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News</em></div>Workers tend to construction-related tasks above the primary entrance at the new Twin Rivers school.

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By Jennifer R. Vertullo
Monday, Feb. 24, 2014, 3:06 a.m.

McKeesport Area staff and officials are dispelling rumors that Twin Rivers Primary/Intermediate School was not ready to open when students transitioned there, beginning a month ago.

The new building, located along Cornell Street in McKeesport, opened for students in third through fifth grades on Jan. 23 and for kindergarten through second grade on Feb. 6.

Intermediate and primary students began the 2013-14 academic year in the former George Washington and Centennial buildings, respectively. Rumors circulating throughout the district claim there is teacher unrest because students should have remained in those temporary classrooms for the duration of the school year.

The Twin Rivers building was not complete when teachers and students made their transition, but Superintendent Rula S. Skezas said nearly everything that remains on the contractors' punch list is aesthetic.

“It doesn't affect the instruction of our students at all,” Skezas said. “A lot of it is cosmetic, and people will realize once the weather breaks that the harsh winter really held workers back from completing the building's exterior.”

On Wednesday, the school board is set to approve $76,420.30 in change orders for the project. The largest item is a $34,000 fence in the area of Spring Street.

Inside the school, classrooms are complete with the technology that made Twin Rivers a state-of-the-art priority for the school board and district administration. Promethean Boards and other “smart” resources are fully functional, Skezas said.

The cafeteria is complete, and the nutrition staff is serving breakfast and lunch daily.

School board president Patricia Maksin said she's heard “nothing but positives” from Twin Rivers teachers and other employees.

The McKeesport Area Education Association released an official statement last week, thanking the school board and taxpayers for making the Twin Rivers school a reality.

“The school is beautiful asset to the McKeesport community,” union president Matthew Mols said. “The teachers enthusiastically welcomed the move, and upon arrival expectations were exceeded.”

Teachers are looking forward to scheduling an open house to share the building with the community, Mols said.

“Students of McKeesport Area School District have a brand new innovative learning facility that they can call home,” Mols said.

Maksin said she's pleased to learn the education association took a formal stance in favor of the Twin Rivers move.

“We just felt it was important to get our kids into the best learning environment as quickly as possible without jeopardizing safety or health at all,” Maksin said.

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

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