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Updates to Sewickley Academy's Oliver Building nearly complete

| Wednesday, Aug. 6, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Kristina Serafini | Trib Total Media
A worker sands the floor in what will be a chemistry lab inside Sewickley Academy's Oliver Building on Wednesday, July 30, 2014.
Kristina Serafini | Trib Total Media
Crews work inside what will be a biology lab inside Sewickley Academy's Oliver Building on Wednesday, July 30, 2014.
Kristina Serafini | Trib Total Media
Crews work on a handicap ramp outside of Sewickley Academy's Oliver Building on Wednesday, July 30, 2014.
Kristina Serafini | Trib Total Media
A worker spackles a wall inside what will be a biology lab prep area inside Sewickley Academy's Oliver Building on Wednesday, July 30, 2014.

When senior school students at Sewickley Academy return to class early next month, they'll find a completely revamped science facility.

As part of the $13 million second phase of the private Edgeworth school's long-range master plan, updates are nearly finished inside and outside of the Oliver Building.

Work to turn the Means Alumni Gym into a multipurpose events center is slated to begin next year.

The complete rehab of the Oliver Building will bring it up to 21st century standards, and include features such as a robotics lab.

The building will have independent project lab space — something school spokeswoman Mandi Semple likened to art students having personal workspace — to allow students to work on scientific experiments.

The lab space “will allow students to spend that extra time on an experiment that may go beyond a class period or assignment — similar to how a student who likes drawing may spend a free period in the art studio, these spaces will provide the same outlet for those students who have a passion for science,” she said.

Along with increased lab space and more natural light, Sewickley Academy students will have access to a second-floor outdoor classroom on a terrace built above a new entrance to the Oliver Building, Semple said.

Crews last week continued working through the building, installing cabinet space and lab equipment, and finishing floors and ceilings.

Construction Superintendent John Kearney said he expected crews to wrap up within a few weeks — just in time for staff to be acclimated to the new surroundings and ready for students, who start classes Sept. 3.

“When it comes down to finishes, it'll be everyone on top of one another in the last couple weeks,” Kearney said.

Workers began in mid-March, he said.

“We had months of just removing everything before we could start building,” Kearney said.

Construction in the gym, built in 1962, will include an NCAA regulation basketball court, Semple said.

A large indoor facility to house the school's entire student body is lacking on campus, she said. The school's enrollment for kindergarten through 12th grade sits at about 720 students.

The expansion would allow for all-school assemblies and other schoolwide events, including graduation, to be in the gym. Graduation ceremonies have been held outside for the last several years, Semple said.

The gym will be large enough to accommodate up to 900 people and include retractable bleachers.

Bobby Cherry is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at 412-324-1408 or

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