As the utilities for the Chartiers Valley School District continued to skyrocket, Dr. White knew it was his responsibility as a superintendent to address the problem. I got the chance to talk with Dr. White and Mr. Nick Morelli, the director of finance, to discuss the entire process from breaking ground to cutting ribbons.
The whole process was kick started when an architectural engineering company was brought into the school to do an assessment on the school’s present conditions. The results from the tests proved that the high school that stands today was not operating efficiently, using too much energy, and simply not going to last much longer. The engineers proposed an idea to the district that would cost 29 million dollars and would not include moving any walls or replacing any windows but would only update the electric, plumbing, air conditioning and heating. Such a plan would only keep the school alive for six to ten more years. After careful deliberation with the community, Dr. White and the school board decided to go ahead with a full reconstruction of both the Middle and High School buildings.
Next, an architectural firm was hired and began the visioning process. The district held meetings titled “Community Summits” to keep the community involved with the entire process. Part of this involved sending out postcards to everyone living in the district. More than 100 people showed up at the first summit. During this visioning process, the school elected to create two sets of teams: one for the middle school and one for the high school. These teams consisted of students, faculty, administrators and members of the community who would meet every month to discuss specific plans regarding the new school. The entire design concept of the new building came to fruition during the meetings of these groups. With the help of construction paper cut outs and long stretches of research on the best way to educate modern students, the two teams finally chose to create “learning pods.”
Learning pods consist of four classrooms, a learning commons, staff offices, and an all glass-encased area for small groups to work. The pods give teachers the flexibility to share kids and integrate classes, enabling projects can crossover the boundaries of single classrooms. The learning pods will look over into a new part of the school that will be called the student commons, which is a grand foyer that will contain the new cafeteria and also be home to dances, social functions, and larger events within the community.
The teams, in order to be as judicious as possible, decided that the project did not need to be a full reconstruction. It was decided that the recently built S-wing, Swimming pool, Gymnasium, and Auditorium would be preserved.
The project will kick off in March and would be completed, at most, in 4 years. This will allow the current sophomores a chance to experience some portions of the new building.
Dr. White went on to explain that he “would like to reinvigorate and transform both our physical environment and our learning environment.” He added that “a lot of what is going on right now in the district is invested heavily in what is called differentiated instruction and professional development ideas that help teachers teach to each individual student.” Ultimately, he hopes that the new building will improve rigor and prepare students for life after high school.
I concluded the interview by asking what Dr White would be most proud about the new school, he quickly retorted “I am most proud of the process.” Mr. Morelli added, “Many people would not know that this project will be a unique design. It won’t be a school with just concrete blocks.” Dr White then concluded that the “new school will change the community and add some curb appeal which will provide the pride that sometimes this school lacks. And, because of the large common gathering spaces, there will be potential for more community events on nights and weekends at the new school. “
As we all wait with baited breath for the construction to begin, the faculty and student body alike are filled with excited anticipation.