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Planners approve Northview Accelerated Learning Academy overhaul

| Wednesday, Sept. 29, 2010

Northview Accelerated Learning Academy will become the "crown jewel" of the Pittsburgh Public Schools once its $14 million overhaul is completed, district officials told the city Planning Commission on Tuesday.

The Northview Heights school will be the first in the city to use geothermal power to heat and cool the building at two-thirds the fossil-fuel cost, and learning kiosks inside will teach children about energy-efficient lights, windows and other features that designers hope will qualify it for "green building" status, said Keith Romanowski, the district's chief architect.

"When we are done, this will be the premier elementary school in the city," Romanowski said "Everything will be new. Everything will be state of the art."

Construction could begin in June and be complete by August 2012, in time for the start of school that September. The 290 children who attend Northview would move to Vann Elementary in the Hill District during construction, pending board approval.

"For that one-year sacrifice on their part, we're promising the crown jewel," Romanowski told the commission, which voted unanimously to approve the project.

The 61,700-square-foot school last underwent a major renovation in 1965. This time, in addition to replacing the roof, windows and lighting, plans call for expanding the cafeteria and replacing a small gymnasium with a full-sized, two-story gym equipped with a performance stage.

The renovation will add air conditioning and a sprinkler system to the building. The K-6 school will expand to house students from preschool through eighth grade.

"I am already hearing parents say they're looking forward to their kids going to this first-class facility," said Keith Murphy, executive director of Bethany House Academy, a nonprofit that provides social services to children and families living in the Northview Heights public housing complex.

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