Blueprint QV New High School Project » Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

Project Costs and Funding

What is the updated cost projection for the new high school? 
QVSD along with the architects at BSHM and Bohlin Cywinski Jackson and the program managers at Thomas and Williamson estimate the total cost of the new high school to be between $95-105 Million. The team has closely watched material costs and monitored material options during each phase of the design process. The project manager and designers review and reconcile cost estimates during all design phases. These strategic updates and monitoring allow the District to go into the bidding process prepared for a more informed final cost. It is incumbent upon the District to stay within the statutes of Act 1 and Act 34 as well as the borrowing capacity limits determined by the state of Pennsylvania. 
How much will the tax increase be? How is the District able to increase taxes this much?  
We intend to deliver this construction project in a budget range of $95-105 million. This range has been updated to account for construction cost escalations from projections in early 2020.  
The District must operate in strict adherence to three (3) statutory guard rails that together serve to establish this budget ceiling:  
  • Act 1 – passed by Harrisburg in 2006, the “Act 1 Index” is the state's measure for limiting property tax increases to a rate justified by wage and other inflationary indicators. Act 1 requires school districts to seek voter approval for tax increases greater than the annually published Act 1 Index. Essentially, it limits districts from taxing beyond inflationary rates.  
  • Act 34 – passed in 1973 and affectionately referred to as the “Taj Mahal Act”, is a law that applies to the construction of new school buildings, to new district administration office buildings, and to additions onto existing buildings. An Act 34 construction project requires a referendum if the Maximum Building Construction Cost exceeds the Aggregate Building Expenditure Standard as calculated within the Act and adjusted each fiscal year using the Building Cost Index History inflationary benchmark data that is published by Engineering News Record.  
  • Local Government Unit Debt Act (LGUDA) – recodified in 1996 and administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, the Act provides the procedure for PA’s local governmental entities to issue debt and establishes borrowing limits for each entity including schools. The calculated “Borrowing Base Capacity” indicates the extent to which a school district, according to the law, can incur additional debt. 
Even if this Board had interest in piercing this budget ceiling, these three guard rails serve as meaningful fiscal responsibility guidelines designed to benefit our taxpayers. Essentially, we can’t overtax, overbuild, or overborrow.  
The District will continue to adhere to a rigorous, strategic and transparent five-year planning process to ensure this community has full visibility to our anticipated annual tax increases.  
Though COVID-triggered inflationary pressures are real, we are encouraged with recent trending and feel confident in our ability to live beneath the Act 1 imposed index in each of the next five years, while also staying within the other spending and borrowing limits outlined above:  







QVSD Tax Increase 






Act 1 Index  







Importantly, the annual tax increases contemplated here cover both the new HS project AND the operational budget of the District in full. For context, annual tax increases for operational needs have historically averaged around 2% in this school district. The incremental 1- 1.5 percentage point increase annually, in turn, will subsidize the construction of a new high school. The combined impact of these fiscally responsible investments will ensure a thriving and future-facing QVSD physical plant while keeping our tax rate in the bottom third of the 41 comparative school districts in Allegheny County. 
Will a referendum for the new high school be on the ballot in the future? 
The Board does not intend to go above the state-imposed financing and taxpaying 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. 
How much has the District spent so far? 
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. As of the end of March 2023, approximately $9.8 million remains in the construction fund.
Bidding, Site Development, and Construction
Is there an updated timeline for the new high school? 
QVSD is eager to serve future students with the best possible educational opportunities. Design development is expected to be completed in May 2023. Construction documents will be completed throughout the summer and fall of 2023, and bidding for the project will open in the winter of 2023-2024. This means we can break ground as soon as 2024, with the school opening as soon as 2027. 
How will each phase of construction be bid?  
Bidding will begin in the winter of 2023-2024 for site development which will include excavation, backfill, grading, roads, utilities, stormwater facilities, etc. 
In 2025, bidding for the building will open, including the structure and site finishes such as landscaping, lighting, signage, fencing, retaining walls, etc. 
What steps will be taken to ensure that the site on Camp Meeting Road is safe and stable? 
Principal Civil Engineer Geoffrey Phillips explained, “The design team is committed to leaving the build site better and more stable than we found it. Utilizing design engineered backfill, careful planning of water management, and making improvements to the geotechnical aspects of the site, we are planning the site to be safe for all students, staff, and the surrounding community.”  
The geotechnical engineers have studied more than 100 core drilled samples to identify areas of weakness in the soil, ensuring that during site development, those areas are addressed and strengthened to bear the load of the new high school and any future additions. The current schematic design considers where areas of bedrock are located and how the land will need to be excavated and reinforced to support the building, roadways, and other weight. All work will also be approved by the Leet Township Planning Commission, ensuring checks and balances throughout the process. 
In addition, per the District’s agreement with Leetsdale Borough, a full-time geotechnical engineer will be on site throughout site development.  
What will be done to mitigate the effects of runoff during construction? 
The District is required to submit an Erosion and Sediment Pollution Control Plan to the Allegheny Conservation District for review and approval. This plan will be monitored during construction to ensure all terms and conditions are met. 
The Erosion and Sediment Pollution Control Program is guidance and procedures put in place by the Department of Environmental Protection in order to minimize runoff and erosion, which could result in sediment pollution to surrounding waterways. This plan's features can include vegetative stabilization, sediment barriers, filter socks and berms, rock filter, silt fence, sediment basins, inlet protection, vehicle rumble pads, vehicle wheel wash stations, etc. 
What will be done to mitigate the effects of stormwater once construction is complete? 
The District is required to submit a stormwater management plan to Leet Township for review and approval. In addition, a third-party engineer will review these plans. 
A Stormwater Management Plan employs the best management practices to control the volume, rate, discharge location, and water quality of post-construction stormwater runoff to protect and maintain the chemical, physical and biological properties of the waters of the Commonwealth. Stormwater Management features can include rain gardens, retention ponds, detention ponds, oversized subsurface drains to regulate the discharge rate, drainage swales to divert stormwater to a specific location, leave landscape buffers, etc. 
What will be done with the existing high school? 
The Quaker Valley School Board has not yet determined what will happen to the existing high school. The District sees this property as a very valuable asset for the school and community and does not have any immediate plans to remove it from our holdings. The athletic facilities located at the current site of the high school will remain in use. 
Is a stadium being built on the new high school property? 
At present, the District does not intend to relocate the stadium to the Camp Meeting Road site. A grass performance field for use by physical education courses and team practices is included in the design, as are tennis courts. The designs created by the architectural firms and engineers account for additional spaces that may be part of future considerations.  
Is there only one entrance drive off Camp Meeting Road to the new high school? What will the traffic patterns look like?  
There are two entrances to the site on Camp Meeting Road. The entrance on lower Camp Meeting Road can be utilized by all drivers but will be most convenient for those residing in Edgeworth, Fair Oaks, Leetsdale, Osborne, and Sewickley. The upper entrance will be most accessible to those living in Bell Acres, upper Leet Township, Sewickley Heights, and Sewickley Hills.  
Upon entering the campus, there will be public and visitor parking available, as well as designated student drop-off areas. Students riding the bus to school will be able to exit their buses at the building’s north entrance, where there will be a bus lane available.  
What improvements will be made to Camp Meeting Road? 
Quaker Valley School District, in conjunction with PennDOT, Allegheny County, Leetsdale Borough and Leet Township, will widen Camp Meeting Road at its intersection with Beaver Street providing overall improved mobility, traffic control, bicycle and pedestrian safety measures and associated streetscapes.  
The widening of portions of Camp Meeting Road will allow the District to install turning lanes approaching the entrances to the campus.  
The District may include two dedicated and paved paths along Camp Meeting Road for pedestrian and bicycle traffic, allowing students and community members to safely traverse Camp Meeting Road from Edgeworth, Leetsdale, and Sewickley to access the new high school. There are currently no designated pedestrian or bicycle paths in this area of Beaver Street. 
What sustainable energy features are included in the new school’s design? 
It is important to note that construction practices are always improving, and the “baseline” school building already exceeds the requirements of an Energy Star median building. 
Upon its construction, the District intends for the building to be net-zero energy ready. This means that future improvements including enhanced HVAC systems, solar energy, and more have been considered throughout the design process, and the necessary infrastructure for these systems will be available.  
What will happen with the stone house on the property known as the “Walker Estate”? 
The District communicated with the Pennsylvania State Historic Preservation Office to determine that the home is not a registered as a historic home. Our architects have determined that the home is not structurally sound and has incurred significant damage as the house was moved from its original site and vacant for many years. 
The District intends to use architectural components of the home such as panes of stained glass and stonework to be repurposed in the new design to recognize its historical significance within the community. 
School Safety and Security
Will the District develop an emergency plan for the new high school? 
A comprehensive disaster response and emergency preparedness plan is required by the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) a 35 Pa C.S.A. §7701. A plan will be developed by the appropriate stakeholders including county and local first responders. This plan must be updated annually and submitted to PDE for approval. For the safety and security of our students and staff, emergency safety plans are not promulgated to the public. 
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. 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.
What would happen if we don’t do anything and just keep our old high school? 
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. 
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 Camp Meeting Road that straddles Leet Township, and Edgeworth and Leetsdale Boroughs to be the site of a new high school campus. 

The map pictured outlines the property purchased on Camp Meeting Road. Map of the site of the future Quaker Valley High School. This Google Map shows the orientation of the new property with respect to Route 65, Camp Meeting Road, and the existing high school. Map of the site of the future Quaker Valley High School. (from Google Maps) 

Why was the land off 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. 
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.