Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Ready for Its Closeup Open House Will Highlight High School's Newlayout

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Ready for Its Closeup Open House Will Highlight High School's Newlayout

Article excerpt

If Mt. Lebanon High School's very first graduates in 1931 could look into the future, they would see a school with fewer walls, open floor plans and a community gathering space, all illuminated by streaming natural light.

Once characterized by long hallways that were difficult for students to traverse from end to end before the class bell rang, the renovated school has two outer wings that are connected by a 750- seat cafeteria, called "Center Court," which is the school's central hub.

Mt. Lebanon High School principal Brian McFeeley said the new layout is more like a piece from Tetris, an online puzzle that players put together using different-sized, tumbling blocks.

The former layout was linear, like a long train. "Now we've made it more horizontal, so you can get from one space to another very easily," said Cissy Bowman, district communications director.

"You can start at Center Court and get to any part of the building," she said. Students can grab lunch and get to nearby rooms, including band, orchestra, music practice rooms, tech education facilities, the student activities area and library.

The new building layout trimmed the size from 545,000 square feet to 454,000 square feet, boosting energy efficiency. Security also was increased.

The Mt. Lebanon School District will dedicate its new high school during a ceremony at 2 p.m. Sunday in front of the entrance on Horsman Drive with a reception following in Center Court.

The 1,700 students remained in the school as the $109.6 million renovation, which began in 2012, took place in phases over three years. All of the classroom spaces were completed in March.

Plans call for the removal of the 1972 addition and the building from 1928. One goal clearly heard during community meetings was the desire to preserve the original 1930 Cochran Road building.

"Every alumni of Mt. Lebanon High School has walked through that lobby," Ms. Bowman said, pointing out that the original terrazzo tiled floors, with flecks of red, orange, gray and black, have been preserved. The color scheme was picked up by the architects and integrated as an accent in the building hallways and classrooms.

Some work won't be completed until spring, including the demolition of the 1972 building and the installation of tennis courts, site work and landscaping.

The Center Court cafeteria not only serves as a common meeting area for students during lunch or between classes but also doubles as a venue for public functions.

Formerly the main gym, the cafeteria is lit from a wall of windows on the Horsman Drive side of the building, flooding the two- story room with natural light. Support beams were left exposed along with the duct work and the wooden gym floor is a polished reminder of the room's previous use.

The new main drop-off entrance is at the back of the building on Horsman Drive and leads students up a wide, two-story staircase where inspirational quotes from Nelson Mandela, Abraham Lincoln and Ralph Waldo Emerson are displayed on the wall. …

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