FAQs

Got Questions?

Here are some frequently asked questions about the new High School plan. These are questions taken from the very informative qvsd.org website. Click here for even more questions and answers about the new high school.

Why is a new high school necessary?

Our current high school building was constructed nearly 100 years ago and was built to meet the additional needs of the early 20th century, not the 21st. 

 

Over the decades, QVSD has renovated and upgraded its high school building to ensure it remained a useful educational tool for our district. The annual costs of this maintenance and upkeep has grown significantly over the years.

 

Now, QV has reached a point where no amount of modernization to its high school building will allow it to effectively meet the needs of QVHS students and educators and satisfy the recommendations and requirements of the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

 

Some of the challenges with our current high school building include:

 

  • Accessibility. Our current high school lacks the space to build additional parking, ramps, and elevators that are required for it to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

  • Traffic. The high school’s location creates significant problems for families of students, staff, and nearby neighbors, including traffic congestion, challenges for bus drop-offs, and insufficient parking.

  • Inflexible Spaces. The building and property are too small and too inflexible for modern education. The building cannot be "segmented" to shut off unused spaces after school and during special events, which creates safety challenges and increases costs.

  • High Energy Costs. Lack of automatic building controls for lighting, HVAC and security result in higher energy costs.

  • Critical Systems that are Past Their Service Lives. Most building systems have a "lifespan" or "service life" - the amount of time those systems can be expected to work correctly before they begin to get old and fail, and need to be replaced. Some of the QVHS systems that have exceeded or are nearing the end of their service lives are:

    • Roofing

    • Doors

    • Windows

    • Flooring

    • Lighting

    • Walls and Ceilings

    • All mechanical systems

    • All major electrical systems (Most are original to the building and are approaching three times their estimated lifespans.)

    • The food service facility

  • Deteriorating Roofing. QVHS has experienced multiple roofing failures.

  • Flooding. The soil on which our current high school was built is saturated with water. This groundwater exerts significant "hydrostatic pressure" against the building's foundation and will find a way through any pours or cracks, even with a new foundation. QVHS's foundation is not new and mitigating the water pressure against it is expensive. And it doesn't always work. When these efforts fail, parts of the high school flood, can't be used, and require costly repairs.

 

 

Why has the District decided not to renovate and expand the current high school or build new on the present site?

Both of these options have been looked into thoroughly. It was determined that neither solution is best for the challenges we face.

 

After extensive diligence during 2016-2018 by Principals at geotechnical firm Garvin, Boward, Beiko and engineering firm Phillips & Associates, the School Board and Administration decided not to build on the current site. In 2019, the Board hired Thomas & Williamson, an experienced firm with more than 35-years in design, construction, and project management of school and institutional projects. Thomas & Williamson concurred with the District's earlier position, which aligned with Garvin, Boward, Beitko, and Phillips & Associates on several key considerations including:

 

  • The Pennsylvania Department of Education recommends that 42 acres of land is optimum for QVHS but the parcel where the current high school sits is just 14 acres. Even that 14-acre size is misleading. Roughly 70% of it lies within a floodplain of the Ohio River. Building within a floodplain is an expensive, risky proposition and requires special government permits from the Army Corps of Engineers, Department of Environmental Protection, Little Sewickley Creek Watershed, and others, that experts have indicated we would be unlikely to receive.  

 

  • To meet our square footage requirements, we would need to build an additional wing or a taller high school than we already have. But additional floors mean additional weight and the foundation of the current high school will not support additional floors without laying a much deeper foundation. A new wing, or a taller building, will not solve the current site’s transportation-related challenges.

 

  • Renovating the current high school would leave us with the same footprint limitations described above while addressing few, if any, of the education and accessibility problems of the current building.

 

  • Educational concerns include limited classroom space, the desire to have a competitive gym space for competition, and parking restrictions. Even the most creative rethink of the existing site will not address its transportation-related challenges, including longstanding parking constraints and traffic flow issues.

 

  • Renovating or building new on the current site share a hurdle that would be difficult to overcome: to do either would require moving all high school students, classes, teachers, activities, and programs to another location for several years while work on the building was completed. The district has no facilities that could provide such space, requiring us to purchase, rent, or convert a facility to serve this purpose. The result would be both expensive and disruptive to the educational experience.

 

As we have learned from engineering experts, the costs of renovating the existing high school would be significant. And though the District acknowledges that the cost of a new build will be higher, the reality is that a retrofit of the current high school does not yield the massive upfront savings that some in the community have assumed/asserted and what it buys us is a facility with few of the enduring, future-proofed benefits of a new build.  As such, in evaluating the long term payback to the Quaker Valley community, the Board’s extensive diligence leads to a clear conclusion that a responsibly designed ‘high school of the future’ on the new site is in the best interest of this community now – and for the generations that will follow.  

For more details, including engineering maps of the existing high school siteclick here.

 

Where will the new high school be located?

After spending several years looking at viable sites for a new high school, the Quaker Valley School Board purchased approximately 130 acres of land off of Camp Meeting Road that straddles Leet Township, and Edgeworth and Leetsdale Boroughs to be the site of a new high school campus.

 

Why was the land off of Camp Meeting Road selected as the new location?

The Board hired commercial real estate brokers Hanna Langholz Wilson Ellis and tasked them with identifying 40 usable acres within Quaker Valley School District for the construction of a new high school. Items considered during the site selection process included topographic challenges, limited zoning district, significant structures and/or family homes, areas of dense population, flood plains, bus transportation routes, barriers to access due to rail lines, and accessibility of fire and police services.

 

To begin, Hanna Langholz Wilson and Ellis utilized Allegheny County Tax Records and searched within and outside of QVSD boundaries. They considered openly listed parcels and targeted open, flat-lying areas with the use of aerial mapping. That search yielded 25 possible properties based on development suitability. In May 2017, the ten best properties were presented to the Board to possibly pursue with consideration for size, location, topography, flood zone, access, public utilities, etc. The ten properties were ranked and the Board asked the real estate firm to pursue several sites.

 

Locations were considered with regard to zoning. There are limited locations where a school is permitted. Of those areas, many were in locations with dense development and a large number of properties were needed to assemble 40 usable acres.

 

During the search for land Three Rivers Trust Property became available. The land had a willing seller, close proximity to the existing high school, a large tract of land, seven contiguous parcels of land all under one ownership, and two means of ingress and egress.

 

A presentation to the School Board from Hanna Langholz Wilson and Ellis occurred in May 2017 and is available here. 

What are the cost projections for a new high school?

The Board and Administration are committed to staying within the District’s debt capacity and Act 1 taxing limits. The District has been working for several years in preparation to address the high school facility and continues to analyze the economic impact relative to debt as the District balances all resources needed for operational needs, including maintenance of all school facilities. May 2020 cost estimates from Thomas & Williamson are $85-$95 million dollars for a new facility on the new property. The next steps in the process will be a request for a proposal for an architect and engineer.

 

Communities that invest in youth prosper and the Quaker Valley School District community has a long history of investing in its facilities, including the elementary schools, the middle school, and over many years, the Sewickley Public Library of the Quaker Valley School District.

How much will a new high school cost property owners?

On June 9, 2020, the Quaker Valley School Board heard from PFM Financial Advisors. The presentation included three possible funding scenarios, $73 million dollars, $87 million dollars, and $95 million dollars. The scenarios break down what it would cost property owners. Click here to view the slides.