LES Building Project

Depicted is a virtual representation of what LES will look like once construction is completed.

Depicted is a virtual representation of what LES will look like once construction is completed.

Molly Bobik, Staff


The legacy of the longest standing school in the Greater Latrobe School District is coming to as the construction of an updated Latrobe Elementary School moves forward. Construction began last spring when the ground was broken at the site of the new school. The school will be located on the Old Athletic Field, in Latrobe, across the street from the old administration building.

The one hundred year old school was built as a four story building. This setup made it more time consuming when switching classrooms. “The students of LES spend more time traveling and less time in the classroom,” said Mike Porembka, Director of Teaching and Learning at Greater Latrobe.The updated elementary school will only be two stories and have two wings of classrooms.  To provide the students with a better learning environment, the school’s wings will be built on an east west axis . This allows for natural light to enter the rooms, which has been found to benefit the students while learning.

In addition, the new school’s amenities will better fit the 21st century. “The new Latrobe Elementary will be a state-of-the art facility,” said Kurt Thomas, Director of Facilities, Operation, and Planning. “LES will deliver flexible, adaptive, and sustainable learning environments that will build an excitement for learning.” The school will provide a sensory room for kids with disabilities. Encore Learning Spaces, that will include labs for STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) and art classes, will be supplied. The library will be furnished with a full media center, and a scaled down version of the high school’s Center for Student Creativity will be incorporated. Furthermore the school will include flexible seating throughout the building.

When the board was debating on whether to renovate the old LES or build a completely new school, they had to consider the cost. In order to fix up the school and meet the students needs, it was determined to cost around $23 million. An entirely new school was estimated to cost around $29 million. The board decided that it would be a wiser decision to start from the ground up in order to provide the students with the same opportunities that those at Mountain View and Baggaley have. “It was a decision that the board made in the best interest of the students,” said Judy Swigart, Superintendent of Greater Latrobe.

“The board approved a minimum building construction cost of $26,985,000 and a maximum project cost of $35,000,000,” said Dan Watson the business administrator for the district. The construction cost of the school was projected to be in between, at around $29 million. The building is being funded through issuance of bonds. If all goes as planned, the period in which these bonds will be paid back is about 12 years, and the payments will made through the use of state and local funding. With this funding in place, the surrounding community will not see an increase in their taxes, which generally is seen to happen when projects like this take place.

Over the summer, Nello Construction has worked to lay the base of the school: lay masonry, set steel, pour concrete, and create the structural frame. “Currently the building structure and concrete floors are about 80 percent and will be complete in the next few weeks,” said Thomas. The building is nearly to the mid-way point.  “The building is on time and under budget,” said Porembka. “Those are the two best things.”   

Currently the construction crew is working towards “temporary enclosure” in preparation for the winter months. This stage will ensure that the inside stays dry and the temperature is controlled to allow for work to be done on the interior. The entire project is expected to wrap around August 3, 2018. Just in time for the following school year.

Many are excited that this long awaited project is in motion. “I feel it’s great.” said sophomore Tommy Donegan, former student of LES. “Kids don’t have to go to the old run down school.”

Along with this joy, some feel melancholy. “A lot of people went to elementary school there,” said Porembka, “ and they’re sad to see it go.” Emma Gert, another tenth grader from LES, is among some of them and said, “I feel sad because that building represents my childhood.”

What is to be done with the old school is still to be determined. It will be decided on by the board once the 2017-18 school years comes to an end.

LES Project Overview Presentation (Courtesy of Kurt Thomas)

2016-10-06 LES GLPIEF Presentation 2.0