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Norwin STEM Innovation Center begins to take shape

| Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
The practice athletic field located on the Norwin High School campus located behind the tennis courts will be the location of the STEM center.

An open, atrium style and substantial glass for visibility and transparency are just two characteristics that Norwin School District officials have planned for the high-tech building focused on the STEM disciplines — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — that is coming to campus.

Construction on the Norwin STEM Innovation Center for Teaching and Learning could begin as early as 2015. Steering committee members have modified cost estimates from about $7 million to $10.6 million.

“I'd rather build something that is useful and not something we're going to be adding onto after six months,” Robert Perkins, school board president, said in a statement.

The project's steering committee set parameters over several meetings. They include offering five strands of education, setting a size of 36,000 square feet with an atrium style and substantial glass and constructing it on what is currently a practice field.

High school students will be offered classes in biomedical science, energy and engineering, computer-science engineering and advanced manufacturing at the STEM building. A fifth class, aerospace sciences with the Air Force Junior ROTC, will be based in the high school.

The size of the proposed building increased from 22,000 square feet to 36,000 square feet.

The additional 14,000 square feet would reduce the need for future additions, Thomas Sturm, Norwin school board vice president said.

Finally, the steering committee agreed the building should be located on a practice field behind the tennis courts. It had been considering four potential sites on campus, but officials decided that site is the most feasible and cost-effective, according to a district statement.

Architects with Hayes Large, which is completing a feasibility study on the project, originally estimated the building would cost about $7 million. That figured changed as the steering committee pushed for a larger building.

School administrators have said no taxpayer dollars will go toward construction and have begun work on a business plan to identify funding.

Administrators are exploring funding ideas that include the state government, corporations, nonprofit foundations and Norwin alumni.

“We are going to follow the same model as colleges and universities to attract alumni donations and foundation support to move this project from concept to reality,” William Kerr, district superintendent, said. “If higher education can do it, then K-12 education can do it without any hesitation or doubts.”

A final design is expected to be completed by Dec. 31.

Amanda Dolasinski is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8626.

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