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Fox Chapel

Fox Chapel Area School District breaks ground on $21 million Kerr Elementary

Tawnya Panizzi
| Thursday, July 12, 2018, 2:27 p.m.
Fox Chapel Area School District hosted a groundbreaking on July 10 for the new Kerr Elementary School.
Fox Chapel Area School District hosted a groundbreaking on July 10 for the new Kerr Elementary School.

Standing on the Kerr Elementary campus in O’Hara, 85-year-old John Meinert fondly recalled his childhood shenanigans at the same building some 70 years ago.

He told the story of a manhole along Kittanning Pike that he and his buddies crawled through to get into the school gymnasium to practice basketball.

“We had a pretty good team,” Meinert said, smiling.

The lifelong resident was invited to participate in the July 10 groundbreaking of a new $21 million Kerr building expected to open in the 2019-20 school year.

The “future-forward” facility will share the same campus and be built on the current playground area at 341 Kittanning Pike.

Superintendent Gene Freeman said the groundbreaking was both exciting and bittersweet.

“We are building for the future but the school has a long history and has affected a lot of lives,” Freeman said.

Construction is critical, he said, as the current 1920s-era Kerr doesn’t meet 21 st Century learning needs.

Inside the new 72,348-square-foot building, there will be innovative features such as collaborative workspaces and a makerspace to inspire creativity and hands-on learning.

The new Kerr will include a language immersion program where students will be taught in English and Spanish. It will be open to students across the district.

Principal Paul Noro has been at Kerr 13 years and said he’s excited to be part of the transition.

“I thought about all the learning that has taken place in this building over the last 90 years and look at it as an iconic symbol,” he said. “I’m excited for the continuation of expectations and inclusion of innovative educational experiences for our kids.”

Meinert too, despite his family’s long connection with Kerr, said a new space was necessary.

While eight of his 10 children attended the current building, two of his great-grandchildren will enroll at the future site.

“I think it’s a very good idea,” he said. “They need it.”

School board president Terry Wirginis said the new facility, with its computer science robotics labs and SMALLabs learning space, will exceed all district standards.

“I think people will start moving into this area for the great staff and the great building,” he said.

The old building will be torn down for parking.

Tawnya Panizzi is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tawnya at 412-782-2121, ext. 2, tpanizzi@tribweb.com or via Twitter @tawnyatrib.

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