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Quaker Valley to sell 2 Leetsdale homes, seek land for new high school

| Monday, Oct. 3, 2016, 3:14 p.m.

The Quaker Valley School District plans to sell two Leetsdale homes that once were considered part of a plan to expand the high school.

School board members voted 7-0 last Tuesday to sell 704 Beaver St. and 706 Beaver St.

The district has owned the two homes — which have been vacant — for more than four years. They were purchased in 2012 for about $400,000. Then-district leaders said the properties could be used in plan to expand the high school.

But last month, school board members said engineering experts offered information suggesting the current Leetsdale property is not suitable for a new high school.

The concerns include limited acreage outside of a flood plain as dictated by the state Department of Education.

“Based on all information gathered, the board agrees the current site is not an ideal option for a high school project,” district spokeswoman Angela Conigliaro said in a release.

Board President Sarah Heres said after hearing “all of the hurdles and challenges with the current site, it became obvious we would be doing a disservice to this community by continuing to invest long-term in this site.”

Board member Rob Riker said he thinks information consultants presented at a facilities meeting last month about the current high school brings the matter to a tipping point.

“It is, I think, a very weighty kind of a decision that's being made here because of the implications that the disposition of those properties has been in the balance for years now and it's created a significant distress in the neighborhood, which was of course very regrettable,” he said. “I'm pleased that we can resolve that on some level.”

District leaders in 2012 said they bought the two homes — 704 Beaver St. for $250,000 and 706 Beaver St. for $150,000 — to fix student drop-off issues and consider a parking lot where homes stand.

A third home — 700 Beaver St. — adjacent to the high school remains a private residence. In 2012, then-school board President Jack Norris said the district could consider eminent domain.

There currently are humidity issues at the high school and historically the building has had water issues, leaders said. New air conditioning units have been installed throughout the high school to help, Finance Director Scott Antoline said.

Antoline said nine air conditioners were purchased for rooms on the first floor of the high school in response to some moisture remediation issues. He said they also are evaluating the remaining rooms that do not have air conditioning, to get air conditioning in those rooms.

Board member Jonathan Kuzma said he wants to see the board and administration work to responsibly dispose of the high school building so it doesn't become a “white elephant” in Leetsdale in five or six years.

Board members say they are seeking suitable land for a new school. State Department of Education requirements call for at least 42 acres, based on student population, Conigliaro said. It's not known where the district might build a new school.

He also asked the district to put some thought into potential uses for the building going forward, whether Quaker Valley continues to use it or it is sold for redevelopment.

“It's important for the community of Leetsdale to have the board be mindful of the best use of the building going forward once its no longer a high school,” Kuzma said.

Board member Gianni Floro said acknowledging that a new high school wouldn't be built in Leetsdale doesn't mean the board is abandoning the campus because the school will be operating there until a new one is built and the athletic and co-curricular facilities still are located on the site.

“Those facilities, the stadium for one, are good facilities — practice fields, tennis courts — those are things that might not have to be rebuilt at a different site,” Floro said.

Leet Township resident Tom Weber, who opposed the district buying the two Leetsdale homes, expressed appreciation for the board's decision.

“Despite our differences of opinion from time to time over the last four years, it's still been very professional and we appreciate all that you guys do for the community,” he said.

Larissa Dudkiewicz is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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