Peters Township High School

Harry Funk/The Almanac

The current Peters Township High School is targeted to become a middle school.

Plans to convert the current Peters Township High School to a middle school involve much more than simply moving students and staff members.

A list of some 100 items was the topic of discussion during the Sept. 23 meeting of the school board’s building and grounds committee, subject to examination line by line toward eventually determining the cost of the conversion project.

By meeting’s end, the base estimate stood at $16.837 million for facets of the project that board members have determined to be essential. The board will address other items still under consideration following a tour of the building.

In addition, major building modifications and additions could cost up to $6.4 million, according to figures presented at the meeting. The total depends on whether the board decides to move the district administration offices to the building as part of the project.

At the heart of the matter is how to adapt what for the most part is a 51-year-old structure to optimal education in the 21st century. As such, construction management firm Reynolds Solution developed a list of “facility improvement measures” under six major categories: architectural finishes and renovations; building envelope, mainly involving roof and window issues; electrical, including lighting and voice-data systems; mechanical systems and temperature controls; plumbing; and Americans With Disabilities Act code compliance.

Some of the major items address energy efficiency. For example, replacing the single-pane windows and their shades in the part of the building constructed in 1968 is estimated to cost nearly $1.1 million, but it would address a point of discussion board members had previously on whether to proceed with a renovation.

Another efficiency measure would involve converting the building’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning system to a newer approach.

Rick Evans, president of Reynolds’ energy division, provided details about dedicated outdoor air systems, which consist of two parallel systems for heating and cooling, as opposed to the simultaneous conveyance in the building’s current flow-pipe system.

“If it’s 15 degrees outside, you’re bringing 15-degree air and heating it up, and then your hot air is going out through the roof,” he told the board. “So you’re just completely wasting that heat.”

He explained that in a dedicated outdoor air system, the warm air instead goes through a heat recovery loop to raise the temperature of cold air coming into a building.

Reynolds staff members plan to quantify how such a system could bring down costs.

“Using this delivery method, there would be a guarantee of those savings,” he said. “So if it’s a million dollars, that’s a million dollars’ less impact on the project over the span of the project.”

A dedicated outdoor air system also would improve air quality. According to measurements taken at the high school in June, the level of carbon dioxide in classrooms increased as the day progressed.

“As your indoor air quality deteriorates, so does your ability to teach within that space,” Evans said, citing the effects on cognitive functions. “It’s not just about mechanical systems. Now it’s about the learning environment.”

The alternative, he explained, would be to maintain the flow-pipe system but replace the unit ventilators serving each room, which would cost more than $900,000.

Regarding major building modifications and additions, Mark Duane, a Peters Township resident and principal of architectural firm Hayes Design Group, discussed three possibilities that involve converting the school’s auxiliary gymnasium or natatorium to district administration offices, at cost estimates starting at $5.12 million.

Another option, with central administration staying put at its East McMurray Road building or moving elsewhere, has an estimate of $3.6 million.

“In all four schemes, the middle school administration was moved to the front, and a secure vestibule was introduced,” Duane said. “So there’s a slight addition to the front of the building.”

The two options for using the auxiliary gym for district administration call for the entrance to that area to be far removed from the middle school entrance, located on the side of the building nearest the high school stadium.

With the natatorium, the administration entrance would be at the building’s front.

“We can make it so that you’ll see a difference in the entrances,” Duane told the board. “We can’t do anything about the distance. They’re close in proximity, but we can give them identity that they are two separate entrances.”

The school board’s finance committee plans to meet at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 3 to discuss how to pay for the project.

Multimedia Reporter

Staff writer Harry Funk, a professional journalist for three-plus decades, has been on the staff of The Almanac since 2015. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and master of business administration, both from Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

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