When students report Jan. 19 for their first day of classes at the new Peters Township High School, it will be a bit later than originally anticipated.
“For all of us, it was kind of frustrating to miss the mark by a week,” school district communications coordinator Shelly Belcher said as the opening approached.
Then again, the potentially mitigating circumstances of 2020 could have resulted in a longer delay.
“We set a schedule two-and-a-half years ago, before anybody ever heard of COVID, and we missed it by seven days,” Belcher said. “So in the grand scheme of being in this big, beautiful building, it’s well worth the wait.”
The pandemic’s effect on the progress of construction turned out to be minimal, and although a flurry of activity still was taking place in the week leading up to finally welcoming students and staff members, the only major facets of the project awaiting completion are the 1,200-seat auditorium and the natatorium.
Otherwise, mostly everything is ready, from a front entrance full of security features to classrooms featuring the state of the art in educational tools.
And each is a room with a view. Banks of windows abound to let in an abundance of natural light while affording opportunities to glance at plenty of green outside, especially when the municipality starts to develop the adjacent Rolling Hills Park.
Highlights of the new school include a main gymnasium for up to 2,300 spectators, a headquarters for Peters Township Community Television that’s more accessible to the public, and a fine arts wing with ample space for the singing and playing of music.
An innovative feature is the presence of centrally located “learning stairs,” providing more than simply conveying people from one floor to another. The soundproofed area allows for seating, again in the presence of an impressive array of windows.
“It has sound wired in, so we can use a speaker system, we can use a microphone, and do presentations here,” Belcher said. “We can have group meetings. But we’re not going to disturb the other classrooms.”
The library, in addition to its collection of books and audio-visual materials, also offers space for a variety of study-related activities.
“There’s all kinds of flexible seating in here, so you can have large groups, small groups, quiet time and accommodate probably anything the kids could need,” Belcher said.
At the current high school, which opened in 1968 and has undergone several rounds of renovations since, the administrative offices are located in the middle of the building. Their placement at the new school is next to the main entrance, allowing visitors to have access without having to traverse the hallways and potentially encounter students.
To help students get their bearings throughout the building, tours are scheduled for the day before their classes resume.
“There are a lot of great things about this building that they’re not going to be able to take advantage of right away, because of COVID and some of the restrictions we have on them,” Belcher said. “We tried to make everything so flexible because we just need to make sure that we’re going to be able to adapt, to continue to give our kids a strong foundation.”
Overall, the project began with contracts awarded to contractors at a cost of $83,175,452 An additional $2.3 million was allotted for a contingency budget to address issues in areas including site preparation, road upgrades and electrical grid upgrades.
As the project draws to a close, more than $500,000 in contingency funds remains.