High School Renovation

Email Access
Public Folders
Site Administration
School Messenger

Renovation Home
HS Traffic
Project Photos
Construction Cameras
HS Project Documents
About the Project
Renovation Blog
Construction Manager
HS Project Process
District Home
Contact Us


About the High School  Act 34 Hearing Community Forums Video Archive Schematic Design DeJong Study Project Financing

About the High School Project

Mt. Lebanon High School has provided generations of students an education based on a rigorous and comprehensive academic program that prepares them to become responsible and independent citizens of a global society.  The High School is the keystone of a Mt. Lebanon education and a source of significant pride for students, staff, alumni, and residents.  The Mt. Lebanon community has invested in their schools for close to one hundred years and understands that a strong school system adds value to homes and community.

    Building Background  

 An aerial view of the current High School

Over the past 80 years, the High School has been renovated or added onto five times. The original, or Building A, was built in 1928. Building B, which fronts Cochran Road, was constructed in 1930.  From there, Buildings D and E, the gym, pool, and auditorium wings were added in 1955 as the community desired increased physical education and fine arts components of the curriculum.  In 1972, the Fine Arts Theatre in Building F was added, again to increase the strength of the fine arts curriculum.  Building C was also completed in 1972.  At that time the C wing housed what were then state-of-the-art science labs, a planetarium, a modern kitchen and four cafeterias located on four separate floors, group lecture space, a library, and Center Court linking the new building to existing structures.  The current building encompasses over 550,000 square feet with a student population of about 1,800 in grades 9-12.

     Current Building Conditions

 Current 600 sf classroom in Building B.


Renovations to the District’s middle and elementary schools were completed in 1998 and 2005, respectively.  On July 10, 2001, a facility assessment of the High School was conducted. According to the findings, “This assessment has found that even with good maintenance, many of the systems have, or are approaching the end of their useful life.  Impending lack of availability of parts in some cases dictates their replacement in the near future.”  Further study indicated that the square footage is excessive for the current/projected student population.  The building is asbestos-laden and the exterior veneer is failing.  Roof structures need extensive replacement.  Infrastructure and Mechanical Electrical Plumbing/ Fire Protection (MEP/FP) equipment have exceeded their life expectancy, are costly to repair, and negatively impact the educational process.  Since the last renovation in 1972, there have been many programmatic changes to the way education is delivered, including the extensive use, availability, and integration of technology in the classroom and the need for flexible space for student and faculty collaboration.   The physical space of the High School is not designed to accommodate 21st century teaching and learning requirements:

  • Classroom size is too small to be used for learning activities beyond direct instruction.
  • Resource areas such as the library do not serve today’s needs.
  • Common areas are needed to provide for learning activities outside of the classroom.
  • The building layout is complex and inefficient; it has evolved based on additions in the     30’s, 50’s and 70’s, with each addition being a reaction to the problems of the time and  without a comprehensive plan.
  • There is a lack of ADA handicapped accessibility in the current building.
  • The infrastructure, including building systems such as heat, electricity, HVAC, boilers, and windows, while supported and well maintained beyond life expectancy, is seriously aging, constantly failing, and in need of total replacement.

    Project Process

 2006 Educational Specifications Team meeting


Since the District would be undertaking a major community investment in the renovation of the High School, it was important to take into consideration how well the school design would support the changing needs of education in the 21st century.  Education, especially the use of technology, has changed dramatically in the 37 years since the school was last updated, so it was especially important to make this building suitable for 21st century learning in order to give students the best education possible. 

In 2006, the Mt. Lebanon School Board commissioned a High School space utilization study and hired DeJong & Associates  to guide the modernization of Mt. Lebanon High School.  An Educational Specifications Committee was convened, made up of a cross section of community members, parents, students, administrators, faculty, and School Board members.

The purpose of educational specifications is to define the programmatic, functional, spatial, and environmental requirements of the educational facility, whether new or remodeled. Educational specifications must begin with a thorough, in-depth explanation of curriculum goals and instructional activities that occur within the learning environment. 

The Educational Specifications Committee met five times during the planning process to develop and create the concepts for Mt. Lebanon High School. Two community workshops were held during this process to gain more community input into the program requirements for the High School. Both groups offered extensive feedback on their preferences for different facility considerations and options.  It was determined that the current building design and layout did not adequately support the educational requirements for the High School.  The educational specifications developed from this extensive process are the foundational elements contained in the proposed addition/renovation plan for Mt. Lebanon High School.  The outcome reports from this process emphasized that the design and construction methodology for this project must include a high degree of flexibility to accommodate program changes in the future, and that the High School building must be organized in a manner which ensures a sense of community and a personalized educational experience for each student.  The result of the committee’s work is detailed in the DeJong High School Space Utilization Study.

From July 2008 to February 2009, the School Board provided many opportunities for the community and School District stakeholders to share their preferences for options for the High School design. Multiple meetings were held including two community forums, three neighborhood meetings, and special School Board meetings to continue to gain public input in the project.  In addition, a Master Design Team was established to meet regularly to provide oversight of the High School renovation process, with representation from the School Board, administration, teachers, and community to guide the design process.  A Design Advisory Committee was also established as an outgrowth of the Educational Specifications Committee to continue to provide feedback.  As a result of the Board discussion, community feedback, and the DeJong study, the architects developed five approaches to the project:  Alternative Approach 1 (repair the existing building); Alternative Approach 1A (repair existing buildings/re-invent Building C); Alternative 2 (part new construction/renovation); Alternative 2A (new construction and renovated Fine Arts Theatre and Auditorium); Alternative 3 (all new construction). Cost estimates of each alternative were also extensively discussed as well as the financial impact of each option on the community.

At the February 16, 2009, Regular School Board meeting, the Mt. Lebanon School Board voted 7-2 to direct the architects to proceed to the schematic phase of the High School Project based on Alternative 2, on the assumption that a portion of the High School will be renovated and a portion will be new construction.  Alternative 2 was selected as the best concept by providing for new construction to enhance the educational program, along with like-new renovation of buildings such as historic Building B.  The reduction of square footage, cost, and phasing opportunities to minimize the impact on students were also key elements in the selection of Alternative 2.

As a result of continued School Board discussion, community and staff feedback, and the work of the DeJong study, 15 Design Criteria were established to guide the architects in the schematic design of the High School:

1. Create an academic center to improve student access to resources
2. Meet MTLSD educational goals for 21st century learning
3. Replace learning spaces for arts
4. Improve athletic spaces
5. New pool
6. Clear circulation
7. Create a center to strengthen the Mt. Lebanon High School community
8. Reuse buildings B, D, E, and F, “like-new” renovation
9. No temporary classrooms
10. Minimize disruption to students during construction phase 1
11. Minimize site work
12. Improve vehicular circulation
13. Improve proximity of entrances to parking
14. Drop-off plaza on Horsman Road
15. Maximizes State Reimbursement

     Project Description

 A view of the new high school design from
Stadium Drive.


The architects presented the schematic design to the Board in early May 2009, and on June 8, 2009, the School Board voted 7-2 to approve the schematic design of the High School.  The design addressed the 15 Design Criteria established by the Board and community.  The proposed new High School for the Mt. Lebanon School District will consist of new construction and renovated portions of the existing multi-story building.  New buildings to be constructed include a new academic wing (Building G) and an athletic field house (Buildings H and I).  The west and south portion of Building D will also be new construction linking into the new commons created in the existing portions of Building D and providing space for arts programs, a new Learning Technology Center and the primary student entrance to the facility.  Existing portions of the building to be retained include an academic building (Building B), a large performing arts theatre (Building E / Auditorium), and a small performing arts theatre (Building F / Fine Arts Theatre).  The existing competition gym building (Building D) will also be retained, but will be significantly renovated into a new Academic Commons (new Center Court) and dining space.

The Academic Commons is centrally located to make it the heart of the school with the cafeteria integrated into this space; Learning Technology Center is immediately adjacent to the Academic Commons allowing students to easily move between these two areas.  Each major area of learning has access to the Academic Commons and associated shared spaces for flexible educational space, to enliven the Academic Commons and provide an opportunity for the integration of curricular areas.  The Academic Commons is located on the third level which connects all of the portions of this multistory building.  A grand stair connects the Academic Commons to a new student and public entrance on Horsman Drive.  New public entrances are also located into the Field House and directly from the parking area to the south.  Existing public entrances will be reused at Building B, at the Auditorium lobby at Building F and at the Fine Arts Theatre lobby at Building G. 

Renovation of the Auditorium and Fine Arts Theatre will result in improved sound, lighting, and seating.  The Field House includes a competition gym, an eight lane pool, two auxiliary gyms and supporting lockers.  A glass enclosed bridge over Horsman Drive connects the Field House with the Academic Commons and allows easy separation of this area for community use after school hours. 

     Project Benefits

 A view of the new grand entry.

The plan “right sizes” the High School for the student population.  The building will now be organized for clear identification and grouping of departments with improved circulation throughout the building.  Delivery of instruction will be supported by classroom size that will increase to 800 square feet to accommodate multiple learning activities.  The integration of technology throughout the building will expand the capacity for distance learning opportunities. Flexible spaces were incorporated into the design for interdisciplinary project-based work and the ability to use technology anywhere in the building.  Adequate numbers of teaching spaces will be designed for academic and fine arts designed for interdepartmental collaboration as well as modern physical education areas.  The design provides resource spaces for learning and social spaces for informal learning.

The organization of spaces within the new High School will provide for proximity of corollary and auxiliary spaces, the alignment of student services (administration, guidance, and nurse) localization of instructional spaces, and better flow for students on arrival to school and within the building throughout the school day.  There will be complete ADA compliance for handicapped accessibility on the site and in the building.  Significant improvements will be made in the area of security.

Since 62% of after hours usage of the High School is by community groups, the schematic design improves community use and access to areas such as the gymnasiums, fitness facilities, new pool, renovated auditorium and Fine Arts Theatre.

Energy efficient systems, appropriate equipment, less square footage, new windows and roofs will reduce operations and maintenance costs. 

Project Financing
The $69 million bonds for the High School were sold on October 1, 2009 at interest rates of 3.5974%. This is a historically low rate for a tax-exempt bond issue which resulted in favorable debt service payments for the community. The District will receive just over $75 million due to the fact that these were premium bonds and sold higher than their face value. The District is reviewing investment options for the proceeds with financial advisors. The funds will be available to be invested on Wednesday, October 21, 2009. Interest earnings on unused proceeds will be used to pay for costs of the project and will reduce the additional money needed to be borrowed in the next couple years to complete the project.

Project Cost

At the December 19, 2011 School Board meeting the Board approved the bids for the high school construction project for a total estimated cost of $109,572,558.

At the January 18, 2010, Regular School Board meeting, the School Board voted 6-3 to approve the Act 34 document that set the maximum total project cost of $113,274,765. The cost of the project is still fluid.  The maximum it could cost would be $113, 274,765. However, this includes contingencies of about $8 million for unknowns and does not take into account that bids on recent school construction projects came in at 17% to 25% below their original estimates.  Additionally, work continues with the architects and construction managers to find ways to further reduce the cost through value engineering.  The School Board has state their committment to find ways to reduce the cost of the project so the final cost will be less than $113,274,765.

As part of any new construction project, a significant amount of documentation must be filed with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania regarding the construction and financing of the project.  A series of submissions and approvals of various PlanCon (“planning for construction”) forms is required in order to document the transaction to the Commonwealth.  The purpose of this PlanCon process is to secure the state’s financial contribution toward the project.  The state will contribute to the construction of the project by way of reimbursing the District a fixed percentage of its semi-annual debt service payments over the life of the bond issue.  PlanCon documentation is primarily completed by the architect, with assistance of the financial advisor and district administration.

Act 34 Hearing
As part of the PlanCon process, the District was required to hold a public hearing regarding the High School project. The Act 34 Hearing was held on February 22, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. in the Fine Arts Theatre. During the public hearing,  the District’s administration, architect, bond counsel and financial advisor presented an overview of the construction and financing of the project to the public.  Public comment was taken druing the meeting. Click here for the full transcript of the Act 34 Hearing.

For more information about the High School renovation process, click here.

Print Page © 2015 Mt. Lebanon School District Terms of Use