IN MINT CONDITION: Montoursville starts year with new school

Montoursville starts year with new school

The main hallway near the entrance of the new Montoursville Area High School. KAREN VIBERT-KENNEDY/Sun-Gazette

Montoursville Area High School students will report to classes next week in a completely renovated building that district officials believe will offer an enriched overall learning and educational experience.

Although parts of the building remain a work in progress, there’s little doubt the school provides a more up-to-date atmosphere.

“It’s wonderful to have this facility,” Superintendent Christina Bason said this week.

Bason and high school Principal Dan Taormina led the Sun-Gazette on a tour of the building just a few days before 647 students enrolled in the school are set to report for classes.

The three-story building includes a number of new and improved features, including classrooms, an auditorium, library, cafeteria, and new art and music areas.

Gone is the 1931 portion of the school, which long served as the main entrance.

Despite protests from segments of the community, the school board voted to tear down that section earlier this year.

The new entrance feeds off a new parking area at the building’s north end.

“We used to have multiple entrances,” Taormina said.

The parking lot has room for an additional 23 vehicles.

Taormina noted the bus loop created in the lot will better accommodate drop-offs and pick-ups of students to and from the building.

“Our goal was to pull the buses off the street,” he said.

The first floor of the building includes a new auditorium officials believe is a vast improvement over the former one. Still under construction, it is located in a new addition of the building and in an area formerly occupied by the cafeteria and art department.

Equipped to include movable bleachers, the auditorium will be able to seat more people for theatrical productions and other events.

Among the features are a larger stage area and dressing rooms adjacent to the auditorium.

Nearby and still under construction are the band and choral rooms.

Two new art rooms can be found along the east end of the building, with an outdoor patio facing the football stadium.

Also on the building’s first floor is an auxiliary gymnasium and wellness area located in the former site of the library and the workout room.

Two new music rooms remain under construction as well.

The new cafeteria, which opened late in the past school year, already has proven to be a big hit with students, according to Bason. Seating 280 people, it includes tables for seating just several students as well as larger numbers.

Outlets in seating areas allow students to keep their electronic devices plugged in.

“It was designed with them in mind,” Taormina said.

A salad bar provides students with more dining options, and, by the end of the last school year, the cafeteria already was seeing an increase in the number of students buying their lunches there, according to Bason.

The upstairs of the building includes new classrooms and new science labs.

The labs can double as classrooms, which is part of the overall building plan to provide more flexibility in educational planning for students.

“We only had three labs before,” Taormina said. “The science labs were in old ’31.’ “

Overall, he noted that the size and number of classrooms have been decreased.

Although enrollment is down from what it was in years past, the district did experience a slight increase in students this year, Bason noted.

The new library includes a computer lab and classroom area. Windows on the north side of the building bring a generous supply of natural light into the seating lounge area.

Overall, the building features wider hallways and staircases.

A new natural gas-fired boiler system is expected to mean a vast improvement over the former heating and cooling system.

Taormina said the building simply provides a more efficient overall facility for students.

“We finally have space to match our programs,” he said.

He conceded the construction project remains “a lot behind schedule.”

But he’s happy the $38 million project now is nearing completion, given the resistance and eventual delay it encountered when the school board couldn’t agree on how to proceed with it.

“There was a time I didn’t think it would happen at all,” he said. “I’m excited about what it will be.”