Questions and Answers

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

We decided not to build on the current site for several reasons.

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 site, click here.

If Quaker Valley does nothing, our high school building will continue to age and deteriorate, the costs to maintain it will raise higher and quicker, and Quaker Valley will fall behind our peer communities that offer a modern high school to attract families.

 

Our community has recognized for decades the significant challenges presented by the high school facility and site. As far back as 1993, addressing the need for a new high school was included in the district’s Strategic Plan. A great deal of study and thought has taken place since then, and a lot of work has been done to maintain the high school building as best as possible. But every year, the building gets older, more expensive to maintain, and more and more of a hindrance to providing a modern education.

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.
Map of the site of the future Quaker Valley High School.
 
 
Map of Future Site of QVHS
 
Map of the site of the future Quaker Valley High School. (from Google Maps)

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.

According to Hanna, Langholz, Wilson, Ellis Real Estate, school acquisition costs in Western Pennsylvania range from $6,891 per acre to $112,265 per acre. Three Rivers Trust falls in the middle of that range at $58,257 per acre. A  presentation to the School Board from Hanna Langholz Wilson and Ellis occurred in May 2017 and is available here

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. The Board is aiming to provide additional financial information, including cost projections before the end of the 2019-2020 school year.

Quality schools support quality education, which in turn impact home values and result in thriving communities. Many factors influence the ultimate cost of constructing a school facility. As the planning process unfolds and new information comes to light, the Board and Administration will be prepared to put forth actual cost estimates.

The Board has hired a program manager, Thomas & Williamson, who can help determine wants versus needs for a new facility. It is important to note there is no single price point at this time. It is easy to conjecture about cost, and much more complicated and time-consuming to produce the robust financial reporting the Board will need to make decisions about building a new school.

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.

On October 24, 2017, the Quaker Valley School Board approved a $10 million bond resolution, empowering the QVSD to take on debt for the purchase of land for a new high school. In November 2019, the Board authorized the issuance of up to $10 million in bonds, payable over 25 years, toward the construction of a new high school.
 

At this time, the Board does not intend to go above the state-imposed financing and taxpayer limits. 

 

In Pennsylvania, school boards are limited to how much they can raise property taxes. Act 1 prevents the District from raising taxes above the Act 1 index, which is established by the PA Department of Education. The state's measure for determining property tax increases is justified by measures of statewide wage inflation (the annual increase in the statewide average weekly wage for the prior year, the increase in the Employment Cost Index for Elementary and Secondary Schools for the prior year and a school district’s local wealth). If a District wants to go above the Act 1 index for something other than an exception, a referendum is required. A referendum ballot question must ask if the voters approve raising taxes by a specified percentage above the district’s index, plus the amount of the exception (if any).

There are no Act 1 exceptions to fund the high school project, nor is the District attempting to take any.

QVSD is eager to serve future students with the best possible educational opportunities. At this time, we do not have a timeline for the project nailed down, as we are still in the information-gathering and resource-gathering phase of the project. We have been talking with the community about a new high school for several years, and are still taking our initial steps toward making those dreams come to fruition. As we move through these early steps in planning, we look forward to communicating more information with you about the projected timeline for a new building.

Timeline

 

1926

Leetsdale High School (now Quaker Valley High School) was constructed.

1956

Quaker Valley School District (QVSD) was formed.

1956-1961

Leetsdale High School became Quaker Valley High School (QVHS).

1966

QVSD considered purchasing land to build a K-12 campus and purchased 80 acres in Bell Acres.

1974

QVSD acquired property to expand Osborne and Edgeworth Elementary Schools, eliminating two streets in the process.

1993

QVSD developed a strategic plan and for the first time discussed the need to either renovate or replace Quaker Valley High School.

1998

QVHS underwent renovations and minor additions, including a larger auditorium and cafeteria. A new stadium was built at the high school, and the baseball field was removed.

2002

QVSD created a master-facilities plan to look at all of its buildings. Consultants completed a demographic study of the district. The school board voted to renovate both elementary schools.

2004

QVHS parking lot was added. The softball field was removed. Turf was added to the football field.

2006

Edgeworth Elementary School renovations were completed. Students were relocated to Anthony Wayne Elementary School.

2007

Osborne Elementary School renovations were completed. Students were relocated to Anthony Wayne Elementary School.

2008

Quaker Valley Recreation Association (QVRA) approached the District about building ballfields. The District hired engineers who determined that the 80 acres in Bell Acres was an unsuitable site for building a new high school or middle school. The District signed a 50-year agreement to lease the land to QVRA.

2009-2010

QVSD discussed whether it should renovate Quaker Valley Middle School or Quaker Valley High School.

2011

The School Board voted to renovate Quaker Valley Middle School. Students in 7th and 8th grades were relocated to Anthony Wayne Elementary School. Students in 6th grade attended Osborne Elementary School. All kindergarten students attended Edgeworth Elementary School.

2012

District leaders voted to purchase two homes on Beaver Street adjacent to QVHS.

2013

Engineering and architectural firms were hired to analyze the viability of the high school and the possibility of building a new high school on the current high school site. This analysis detailed some of the significant challenges of building on the site of the current high school but did not rule out the possibility completely.

2014

The district used a variety of forums to engage hundreds of community members in creating a new vision.

2015

In the Spring of 2015, QVSD commissioned a demographic study to determine the District’s future needs. The School Board engaged a law firm to help guide it through the initial analysis of available land, in case another site for the high school was needed.

2016

In September 2016, engineers presented their findings, including newly updated flood plain maps from the Army Corps of Engineers, at a public meeting. Based on prior findings and this new information, the School Board decided the current high school site was not a viable long-term option. The Board also voted to hire BrainSpaces, Inc. to create an education plan for the future of learning at QVHS.

 

 

This decision led the district to put two district-owned houses on Beaver Street back on the market. Commercial real estate agents increased efforts to search for land in all 11 QV municipalities and in areas outside of the district.

2017

QVSD engages Brainspaces, Inc. to work with students, staff, and the community on an education plan.  Hana Langholz Wilson Ellis is tasked with identifying 40 usable acres within QVSD for the construction of a new high school.  The Quaker Valley School Board approves a $10 million bond resolution, empowering the QVSD to take on debt for the purchase of land for a new high school. Phillips & Associates enters into an agreement with QVSD to perform due diligence on the Three Rivers Trust Property which consists of 134 Acres. 

2018

QVSD closes on the Three Rivers Trust property for $7.5 million.  The School Board approves the purchase of several parcels of property in Leet and Leetsdale Townships.  Brainspaces, Inc. provides QVSD with a completed pre-design summary for the future high school.

2019

QVSD enters into an agreement with Thomas & Williamson to provide project management services and PFM Financial Advisors, LLC to provide professional advisory services.  The Board authorizes the issuance of up to $10 million in bonds, payable over 25 years, toward the construction of a new high school.

A public high school belongs to its community. That’s why we’ve worked hard to schedule community meetings, respond to questions from local media, and report our progress on the project to you.

The Quaker Valley School District has provided, and will continue to provide, a number of different options for residents to share their opinions and provide input about Quaker Valley's future high school. You’ll always be able to find current information about the project here on our website.

The District will continue to communicate directly with residents and through the news media to help keep you informed about every step it takes during this process.