The Bethel Park High School building is only six years old, but school officials are already planning an extensive upgrade.
The problem is with the building’s air conditioning system, which school officials said is undersized and unable to cool the building adequately on extremely hot days.
Maintenance workers have been dealing with the issue since the building opened in 2012, especially at the start of each school year, when 90-degree days are relatively common.
The school board agreed at its meeting Nov. 13 to spend $26,800 on engineering consulting services. Tower Engineering of Ross Township will consult with district Maintenance Supervisor John Cramer in designing the modification to the building’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning system.
A full cost for the project is not known yet, but the work should take place over the summer and it will hopefully be finished in time for the start of the 2019-20 school year. The district will likely use cooperative purchasing arrangements to buy the equipment and hire the contractor needed for the project, as opposed to bidding the project outright.
Cramer told the board he is confident he can modify the existing system to make the system perform more efficiently so that the rooms can be kept at a comfortable temperature year round. He also said that the district could see a savings in energy and maintenance costs as a result of a revamped HVAC system.
“This is not a patch. This is a fix,” Cramer said. “This will allow the system to operate more efficiently and to get more cooling into the rooms.”
Director Ken Nagel noted that the air conditioning units were undersized from the day the building opened and he wanted to make sure the district does not repeat that mistake.
In another matter, the board discussed the threats that have led to three school closures so far this year. A threat that was scribbled onto a bathroom wall at the high school prompted the most recent cancellation in early November.
Parent Sharon Janosik questioned whether the school cancellations were counterproductive.
“I wonder if we are feeding into what the perpetrator really wants, which is cancelling school,” she told the board.
Some board members have expressed similar concerns in the past, and a motion to change the school calendar to make up the missed school days had three members dissenting, with school directors Pam Dobos, Nagel and Barry Christenson voting against it. The motion passed 5-3 with director David Amaditz absent.
Superintendent Joseph Pasquerilla apologized for the inconvenience the cancellations have caused.
But when making the decision whether or not to close school, Pasquerilla said he always errs on the side of caution.
“When I’m faced with making that day up versus taking a risk, it’s just not worth it to me,” he said.
The district has implemented bathroom restrictions and bathroom monitoring at the high school and Independence Middle School in an effort to deter the graffiti-based threats. The district used a similar plan last year and school officials said it was effective in reducing the number of threats.