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Mt. Lebanon High School additions are set to open in mid-semester

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Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2013, 8:49 p.m.
 

Walking between floors of Mt. Lebanon High School's “B” building, the 1930 brick structure facing Cochran Road, is akin to stepping backward through time.

New, modern classrooms are on the top floor, a gutted construction zone is in the middle and rooms battered through decades of use are on the ground floor.

About 1,654 Mt. Lebanon students will try out some of the first finished results in the second year of a four-year renovation project when they return to class Tuesday and the district opens the newly renovated sixth floor of the school, with a new athletic wing, renovated fine arts wing and a new science wing scheduled to open to classes in the middle of the upcoming semester.

Due to the slope of the school site, the Cochran Road-level ground floor of Building B is labeled the fourth floor of the complex, with the first floor of the school in Building C on Horsman Drive.

“One misunderstanding the kids had was that they wouldn't see any of these new things until the project was done,” Superintendent Timothy Steinhauer said during a tour of the school. “But they'll see the first new spaces right on the first day of class.”

Some students are looking forward to the new classrooms.

“The labs that were there before, you were extremely packed in,” said Tyler Palombo, 17, a rising senior at the school. “The new spaces are going to be great.”

“When you have space to learn, it's less distracting than when there's someone bumping your shoulder while you're trying to pour chemicals,” said Nick Reese, 17, also a senior. Both practiced tennis last week at Mt. Lebanon Park, near the high school, but have been shuttling to the Keystone Oaks School District's tennis courts since their school's courts were demolished last year to allow for the new athletic wing.

To avoid using portable classrooms or canceling programs, the district scheduled the $109.65 million renovation and expansion to take place over nearly four years, shuffling students from space to space as some areas closed for construction and others reopened. Contractors raced through as much work as possible in the summers.

The school temporarily will be short one of its three gymnasiums and its swimming pool, because those spaces were being demolished and their replacements in the new athletic wing won't be open until midway through the semester.

The wings originally were scheduled to open at the beginning of the school year. But setbacks such as bad soil under the athletic wing have delayed those openings until November.

Steinhauer emphasized that every class and activity will have a designated space when school begins, even if it is offsite, as in the case of tennis, or to a different part of the building, as with music classes.

“We've got a space for every activity in the district. It may just be in a different place,” Steinhauer said.

After closing last year for gutting, the sixth floor of Building B was renovated to increase classroom sizes, replace leaky windows and upgrade wiring, ductwork and furnishings. Each classroom will have dry-erase boards flanking either a projector-equipped interactive “smart board” or a large TV screen that teachers can connect to their own computers for videos, notes or presentations. The fifth floor has been gutted and will get a similar makeover during the next year.

In the renovated fine arts wing, the small theater and an office area for the school's principals, nurses, technology staff and counselors are also scheduled to open in the middle of the semester, Steinhauer said.

The theater has gotten new seating and a new stage; the main auditorium will be closed for renovations after the musical in May.

In the new athletic facilities, crews this week prepared the pool to be tiled and the wooden gym floors to be laid. Walls of glass still need to be installed along one corner of the building looking in on the eight-lane swimming pool, and in a gallery-style hallway along Horsman Drive that will be filled with trophy cases and plaques.

Cabinetry and equipment is being installed in the new science wing, which will have “clusters” of three rooms each: laboratories with classrooms on either side, and windows between them so teachers in the classroom can supervise students in the lab.

“Once we get these two new buildings, the majority of new construction will be done,” Steinhauer said. “There will be a little more new construction around the entrance, but it'll be the renovations that are the biggest thing from then on.”

When the athletic wing opens, the current gym will be closed and work will begin to convert it to the school's central court, with a main entrance off Horsman Drive, the library and cafeteria, and a gallery above connecting Building B to the fine arts and science wings.

Building C, the last addition to the school in 1972, and Building A, the oldest wing dating to 1928, then will be demolished.

Matthew Santoni is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5625 or msantoni@tribweb.com.

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