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Shaler Area Alumni Association spruces up high school courtyard

| Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018, 1:33 a.m.

The newly formed Shaler Area Alumni Association is funding an outdoor space for high schoolers to enjoy their lunches and learn outside their traditional classroom environments.

The outdoor cafe and classroom, in a courtyard outside the cafeteria, consists of two phases. The first phase involved replacing benches that had fallen into disrepair, said assistant principal JoAnne Townsend. The school also added picnic tables.

Shaler Area Alumni Association President Mark Becker said that Phase I’s initial planning and fundraising for the $7,500 project occurred from mid-June through mid-October.

Throughout the winter, the association will raise funds for Phase II, which will consist of adding landscaping and bleachers “to create an outdoor classroom meeting space, energizing students and staff through enhancing our school environment,” according to Townsend. The association aims to install Phase II in the spring.

“We value kids having the opportunity to get outside to enjoy some sunshine,” she said.

Since the alumni association’s June formation, Becker said he and other members have met with Shaler Area officials to discuss the district’s top priorities. He said the alumni association chose the outdoor cafe and classroom as its inaugural project due to the following: It’s consistent with the school’s goal of providing “effective learning environments”; improves the campus in a manner that “traditionally would never be funded through the budget”; and was a relatively simple project.

“We’re looking for some early wins to continue to promote how effective this organization can be to the alumni to give them a sense of when we get folks activated of how successful we can be,” Becker said of the 2,500-member group.

Additionally, he said the association is reviewing how to address the district’s other needs, such as those related to science, technology, engineering and math education and special education programming.

“We have identified an opportunity to retool the school’s library from a traditional 1980s, 1990s library into a digitized media center that not only has just traditional hard copy resources available to students but really kind of a digital environment available to students that can be used for multimedia, multi-channel resources. That’s a project that could be costly, but that’s kind of on our radar.”

Becker also mentioned the association’s interest in teacher Nick Haberman’s Center for Holocaust, Genocide and Human Rights Education, planned to be adjacent to the Shaler Area High School library.

The association is composed of Shaler Area High School alumni following the 1972 merger of Etna, Millvale and Shaler High Schools.

The Shaler Area Alumni Association is part of the Shaler Area Education Foundation. Tax-deductible donations marked to the outdoor cafe and classroom, or the alumni association in general, may be sent to: Shaler Area Education Foundation, 1800 Mt. Royal Blvd., Glenshaw, PA 15116.

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