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Board Updates Community on Planned Middle School Renovations

Mars Area School Board held a Special Meeting on Dec. 4 to update the community about an upcoming Mars Area Middle School renovation project.

The renovation project will maintain the same building footprint; but, will include moderate floor plan changes and renovations to the building’s interior, said Dr. Wesley Shipley, superintendent, noting that plans include a seventh grade area and an eighth grade area, each of which will be separated into two teams or houses.

“(The ‘house’ concept) allows for collaboration. It allows for small and large activities (within) each group. It creates better connectivity between the teachers and the students,” said Shipley.

In addition, the guidance and nurse’s offices will be moved to the front of the building near the main office, said John Hays of Thomas & Williamson Program Management. The technology education classroom will be expanded into existing space; the school’s art and family and consumer science classrooms will be relocated and enlarged; and classrooms will be dedicated for “maker” and robotics labs.

The project will also include the raising of the floor in the Commons (cafeteria) and the removal of the risers in the LGI (large group instruction) Room, said Hays. New lockers and widened corridors are also planned.

“We wanted to increase the flow of the building to make it more user friendly for the students (and) to create a centralized STEAM (Science Technology Engineering Art Mathematics) area,” said Shipley.

The total project cost would be $14,683,427. Around $10 million for the project will come from a 2018 District bond fund and the remainder from residual dollars from a 2016 bond fund that is on hand in a reserve account, said Jill Swaney, business manager.

The Board is expected to award bids for the project in late April 2019 and construction is expected to begin immediately following the end of the 2018-2019 School Year. The project is scheduled to be completed in December 2019.

As renovations will be taking place when students are in school in Fall 2019, the District is considering a plan to temporarily house eighth grade in the auditorium area at Mars Area High School. Seventh-graders would remain in the middle school and move within the building as construction progresses.

“We are going to have some conversations… with regard to those teachers who would be uprooted and have to move; exact placement of the classrooms; and taking a look at the special area curriculum,” said Shipley, who expects to have a plan in place within the next few months.

For more information, call (724) 625-1518.