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Fox Chapel Area to consider building new Kerr Elementary School

Tawnya Panizzi
| Tuesday, April 25, 2017, 9:39 p.m.
Audience members hear a presentation regarding construction of the proposed  Kerr Elementary School at a Fox Chapel School Board meeting on April 25, 2017.
Audience members hear a presentation regarding construction of the proposed Kerr Elementary School at a Fox Chapel School Board meeting on April 25, 2017.

Fox Chapel Area students who attend Kerr Elementary School could have a new $18 million school in 2019.

District officials on Tuesday night unveiled plans for possible construction of the school along Kittanning Pike in O'Hara, citing structural inadequacies at the current 1920s-era building.

The school board will consider the project May 8.

If approved, the new school would be built on the lower level of the existing campus where the playground sits.

The existing Kerr Elementary would remain open during construction.

Dan Breitkreutz, district director of ancillary services, told the audience of about 50 people that Kerr's entire roof needs to be replaced, the mechanical system is outdated, a new entrance is necessary to enhance safety, the walls of the multipurpose room are leaking and parking is insufficient.

“The last time any major renovations were done (at Kerr) was 2003,” Breitkreutz said.

Superintendent Gene Freeman said the physical problems are compounded by instructional deficiencies.

“The school doesn't meet the programming needs,” Freeman said.

The design of the current building allows only limited collaboration between grade levels, he said, and the classrooms have limited capacity for advanced technologies.

Freeman said the new building, expected to be a two-story L-shape, might include room for a pre-kindergarten program, a “maker's space” and language immersion classes.

“We need a place that is conducive to learning,” he said.

Breitkreutz said the board could have chosen to renovate Kerr for about $11 million.

But he said the upgrades would last only about 10 years before that amount would need to be spent again.

Jon Thomas, of Thomas & Williamson project managers, said the new building would include more open areas to enhance student learning and allow for increased collaboration.

Rooms like the computer lab or robotics station would be open to each other to encourage team-building activities, he said.

If approved, contract bids would go out next spring and construction would be expected to last 15 months.

The building would be ready for the start of school in 2019, Thomas said.

Tawnya Panizzi is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 412-782-2121, ext. 2, or via Twitter @tawnyatrib.

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