Case Studies

The Pine-Richland High School Expansion: Upholding Educational Excellence

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Pennsylvania’s Pine-Richland High School continuously ranks among the nation’s top public education institutions. In 2011 the school landed at No. 627 on Newsweek Magazine’s list of the Top 1000 Public High Schools, joining 35 other Pennsylvania schools on the list. The school maintains a 98-percent graduation rate with 1,467 students and a student to faculty ratio of just 14-to-1 in 2010, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. A full 89 percent of all graduating seniors head off to college and maintaining these rates requires the help of over 100 teachers and a network of educational resources.

The high school’s primary building in Gibsonia, Pa., opened in 1993 with a maximum functional capacity of 750 students. A 2000 expansion doubled its capacity, which the school exceeded at the beginning of the 2009 to 2010 academic year. The Pine-Richland School District’s (PRSD) board began work to expand the school years ago and formally created an expansion committee in 2007 of educators, administrators, board members, students and active community members.

The committee came together to address and prioritize the school’s needs in an anticipation of a growing enrollment rate, looking at the cost-effective ways an expanded school campus could enhance the school’s safety, security and overall legacy of educational excellence. The committee’s report formed a foundation for PRSD’s overall expansion plan against which a variety of alternatives could be compared. These alternatives included everything from forming a public-private partnership with an outside educational institution to forming a cyber school and adjusting the school’s scheduling to accommodate more students.

In 2008 the school board called a special meeting to address the increasingly crowded conditions at the school and effectively prioritize the school’s greatest administrative and educational needs. Ultimately, the board moved to pursue a combination of expansions and renovations, which the district presented to the public at a special meeting in August 2010 after voting to allocate $41 million in funds to the project in April of the same year.

Staying Flexible

With all of the ducks in a row the school broke ground officially in November 2010, meaning construction would proceed throughout the school year. To compensate for the logistical challenges of this schedule the school looked to enlist the help of a local general contractor with plenty of experience building educational facilities while the facilities were still occupied. The school’s search eventually led it to Kusevich Contracting Inc. (KCI), a general contractor based just 15 minutes away in Etna, Pa. The company started out under the name of its founder, operating as George Kusevich Contracting Co. in 1958, and the second generation of Kusevich family members remains highly involved at the company, which maintains a managerial core of 15 construction experts that coordinate with trusted strategic partners in such sectors as HVAC, plumbing, fire suppression, telecomm, landscaping, as well as interior detailing.

All of these capabilities proved valuable on the extensive Pine-Richland High School expansion, as the project added a full 106,000 square foot to the 274,000-square foot facility in under two years. To minimize disruptions, PRSD split the project into five separate phases. The first phase, which continued through March 2012, consisted of building the Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts & Mathematical (STEAM) Center with a combination of academic and administrative space.

Meanwhile, the second phase mobilized crews to complete badly needed renovations and expansion of the school’s cafeteria, kitchen and dining areas, along with some renovations to the nearby academic spaces. The third phase saw a complete renewal of the school’s computer labs and an expansion of the school’s music wing. Crews on the fourth phase completed work on an all-new traffic loop surrounding the campus that provided extra parking and a traffic pattern conducive to safe pedestrian, bus and car travel.

An Example of Excellence

Finally, the school’s existing roof was replaced during the fifth phase, which continued throughout the duration of the other four phases.

“Completing work in an occupied high school required all of the contractors involved to take extra measures to ensure the work would never comprise the safety or security of the students, which we were active in pursuing,” states Ryan Haught, a project manager at KCI and a 10-year veteran of the construction industry.

Still, all the preparations in the world can’t eliminate the possibility of a surprise or two. In this case, crews were challenged to adjust the projects’ schedule when the structural steel subcontractor went bankrupt in the midst of the project. KCI stepped up to the plate and managed to work closely with the subcontractor’s bonding agent to minimize the amount of downtime on site.

The new Pine-Richland High School campus opened to students for the 2012 to 2013 school year with an official dedication ceremony held in September 2012.The new STEAM wing provides a dedicated space to foment a well-rounded and multidisciplinary education. With the help of dedicated contractors such as Kusevich Contracting Inc., Pennsylvania students, families and community members can rest easy that the Pine-Richland School District remains amongst the state’s premier public education institutions for years to come.

Published on: March 13, 2013

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