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Forward Thinking: Quaker Valley, Sewickley Academy look ahead to coming year

| Wednesday, Dec. 25, 2013, 9:46 p.m.

As health care, salary, retirement and other costs continue to rise, Quaker Valley officials, like those in many other school districts across the region, will continue to look for creative ways to do more with less in the coming year.

Superintendent Joseph Clapper said administrators have done a good job of protecting the educational program of the district while “trying to manage an untenable financial circumstance.”

“There's only so much money to go around and, in some cases, you have to identify things, programs, personnel you need to reduce or eliminate,” he said.

One of those things is the elimination of all bus driver positions and instead switching to outsourced transportation for the 2014-15 school year.

Currently, the district employees 16 drivers. Quaker Valley employed about 35 bus drivers in 2007, when it began outsourcing to Richland Township-based Monark Student Transportation. By mid-2016, administrators estimate that will have saved nearly $3 million over a nine-year span by outsourcing transportation.

“Transporting kids to school is important, but you want to be able to do that in the most efficient, cost-effective way,” Clapper said.

To shave costs over the last couple of years, district officials also looked at sharing costs of programs — such as the Quaker Valley and Cornell football co-op.

“We're going to need to do more and more of those,” Clapper said.

“We really do need to be thoughtful about expenditures.”

Clapper said it's too soon to tell what other programs or positions might be eliminated next year.

Despite a tighter budget, the district will improve its computer labs.

Desktop computers used for art, technology, Web design and other classes and programs will be upgraded next year.

Sewickley Academy will be undergoing some upgrades of their own beginning at the end of the school year, as the second phase of the campus' master plan is scheduled to begin.

The project, which will cost more than $13 million, includes updating the senior school Oliver Building for science and the expansion of the Means Alumni Gym into a multipurpose events center.

Head of School Kolia O'Connor expects work on the Oliver Building to begin in May. It was built in 1986 and never underwent any upgrades.

“Given SA's outstanding science program and the advances our faculty have made in their work with students, the school is renovating the Oliver Building to ensure that it meets both current and future needs,” O'Connor said.

“We are committed to supporting our faculty's desire to undertake more hands-on, experimental teaching, which will be supported by more flexible teaching and laboratory spaces.”

O'Connor said the school's robotics lab will be expanded to support a growing interest in the program, and space will be created for students to undertake independent scientific investigations.

Construction on the alumni gym is not scheduled to begin until January 2015, pending Edgeworth Borough officials' approval.

The gym, built in 1962, will include an NCAA-regulation basketball court and enough space to house the school's entire student body of 720 to allow for all-school assemblies and other schoolwide events, including graduation.

The expansion will include new and larger locker rooms for students in grades six through 12, O'Connor said.

The first phase of the master plan included more green space on campus, a bus turnaround and an on-campus garden.

Associate editor Bobby Cherry contributed to this report. Kristina Serafini is a photographer and staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-324-1405 or kserafini@tribweb.com.

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