June 26, 2008

Upper St. Clair Middle School Upgrade Figures Climb 30 Percent

By Tim Puko, The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Jun. 26--Upper St. Clair's middle school renovations could cost about $55 million with a nearly even split of work between remodeling and new construction, according to preliminary estimates from the architect.

The estimate is up about 30 percent from the high-end prediction in a feasibility report released last year by South Side-based Graves & McLean Architects. More precise figures will come later from P.J. Dick Corp., hired Monday as construction manager, but energy and materials costs are raising the price of construction, architect David McLean told school board members at a meeting this month.

His preliminary plans call for mostly new construction at Fort Couch Middle School, replacing the district bus garage there with a new academic wing. Boyce Middle School is slated to be the less expensive of the two projects. Most of its work will be renovations, featuring more glass and more natural light coming from the outside and the inner courtyard, McLean said.

"I think we're really moving in the right direction," Boyce Principal Karen Brown said. "I think it does meet a lot of the things we were talking about."

No one spoke to oppose the plan during a two-hour meeting on the topic last week.

P.J. Dick oversaw the district's $30.2 million high school renovation project completed in 2000.

The plans call for Boyce to have a new cafeteria, an expanded gym and a series of classroom bundles. All the classrooms come in pairs, and each pair has a full-sized support room for other activities. Those support rooms can become classrooms whenever the district sees spurts of heavy enrollment in Boyce's two grades, fifth and sixth.

Fort Couch's structure would be reversed, incorporating what McLean called a popular suggestion to move its entrance to the opposite side. Seven academic classroom clusters would be on two new floors where the bus garage now sits, allowing most construction to occur without disturbing the existing classrooms.

Construction would start next summer and be completed by 2011, according to the plan. The full cost estimate ranges from $53.395 million to $58.345 million, depending mostly on whether district officials opt for alternate gym and theater options, according to McLean.


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