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New Penn Hills Senior High School opens to rave reviews


WE GOT GAME—Students check out the 1,900-seat gymnasium at the new Penn Hills Senior High School building during a December tour.


by Christian Morrow
Courier Staff Writer
Two years and two contractors later, the Penn Hills School District has welcomed students back from Christmas break to a new state-of-the-art high school building.
The district held a ribbon-cutting ceremony Dec. 28, which doubled as a farewell tribute to the old senior school building, complete with the Navy Junior ROTC students lowering the flag for the last time.
Now instead of a dark, 1959-vintage box, complete with cell and Internet dead zones, students have a $58-million smart building with skylights and Wi-Fi throughout. The consensus among those walking past the dual 55-inch video display screens at the new building’s entrance was, “wow.”
“I’d toured it many times by myself earlier and I still say that. I’m in awe,” said Penn Hills School Board President Joe Bailey. “This facility gives our children a first-class facility that rivals any district and complements our excellent academic program. We are very pleased and very proud.”
Construction on the 300,000 square-foot structure started in December 2010 on the site of the district’s former administration building by Turner Construction. That firm was replaced by Plum contractor Russo Construction Service, which finished the novel design developed by Architectural Innovations.
Calling on Native American motifs of an eagle (the school’s mascot is an Indian), the building’s “wings” contain the academic and lab space,  with desktop computers for each student and four to six laptops.
The learning space is further compartmentalized into math, science, language arts, foreign languages, social studies and business departments. There are also designated areas for music, art, sciences and technology.
The academic wings can also be separated from the centralized large assembly spaces for evening, weekend and community events by automatic gates.
Those spaces include a 1,000-seat auditorium that features the latest in acoustic and lighting technology, a cafeteria that can seat 500 students at a time, and a gymnasium that can seat 1,900 for main-court basketball games or be reconfigured into three horizontal courts for both basketball and volleyball.
NAACP Penn Hills President Joyce Davis attended the ribbon cutting and said she had to see it after students who volunteer at the Lincoln Recreation Center told her about it.
“They were very excited about it, taking pictures with their camera phones,” she said. “It is a beautiful building, and the auditorium is very impressive. It gives a new and greater educational opportunity to our youth.”
But the new building is only part of a $130 million district modernization plan that will also see new parking space and a new press box for the football field on the old high school site, and the construction of a new centralized elementary school to replace the three current schools.
The elementary center, which will be built on the former Dible Elementary site, is scheduled for completion in August 2014.
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