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Steel pool among nearly $3 million in add-ons to Thomas Jefferson High School project

| Wednesday, March 9, 2016, 2:45 p.m.

Crisp, white lights, a steel pool and penthouse screening walls will add to the longevity of the new Thomas Jefferson High School.

Low bids for the construction of the new Thomas Jefferson High School, set to open in the summer of 2018, allowed members of the community construction committee and district leaders to select nearly $3 million in add-ons for the project that will add to the life span of the building.

“The bids came in well underneath our projections. In terms of bidding, we couldn't have done much better,” facilities director Ryan Snodgrass said.

The $64.3 million base bids for the project allowed district leaders to select several add-ons that would improve the duration of the flooring, lighting and maintenance aspects of the building, Snodgrass said.

The school was designed after Thomas Jefferson's Monticello, with a red brick façade and white pillar entrance. It will include an eight-lane swimming pool and athletic and arts wings on the 160-acre site on Old Clairton Road.

The educational aspects of the building all were included in the $64.3 million base bid, which district leaders awarded in January, Snodgrass said. Bids, including add-ons, totaled $67.4 million.

“Our alternate selection will give the new high school a much longer life span, a better performance, less energy needs, it will reduce our electric and gas every year,” he said.

When the process to build a new high school began two years ago, district leaders spent nearly eight months gathering input from stakeholders.

Guidelines outlined by the state Department of Education sets a standard, based on Act 34, where the district was given a maximum cost of $69 million for the project, Snodgrass said.

To ensure they were under the district budget and state guidelines, district leaders identified items that were “noncritical,” Snodgrass said. Those were pulled out from the base bids and later added back into the project when costs allowed.

That included a $920,000 upgrade to terrazzo flooring. The current high school has this type of flooring, Snodgrass said.

“The high school has original flooring that looks beautiful today and it was put in in the mid-'50s,” he said.

Also added on was more than $900,000 to construct “penthouse screen walls” on the roof of the school to protect the heating and cooling systems from the elements, Snodgrass said.

This will add between five and seven years to the life of the units, he said.

The entire school will be outfitted with LED lighting at a cost of about $84,000. The LED lights will reduce energy costs by about 20 to 25 percent, and have a 15- to 20-year life span on some of the lights, Snodgrass said.

District leaders also agreed to add nearly 50 additional parking spaces at the school along with items like “compressed air” that will feed into art classrooms to assist with sculpture projects, Snodgrass said. That will replace the hand tool being used now.

The theatrical system, including lighting and sound, will be upgraded in the auditorium, as part of the $3 million add-ons.

The pool, also, will be constructed of steel, which adds to its life span, but also comes with 25-year warranty instead of one-year warranty a concrete pool would have come with.

A groundbreaking for the new high school has not been set.

Costs for the school do not include furniture and technology. The total cost of the project initially was estimated to be about $101 million. District leaders now said they do not have a firm number on the total cost, but said that bids came in below what was anticipated.

“It's going to be a very, very premier building and it's going to solidify our community for another 40 to 50 years,” Snodgrass said.

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