Project Spotlight: Armstrong Junior/Senior High School

Armstrong Junior/Senior High School in Armstrong School District

Project Spotlight: Armstrong Junior/Senior High School

Sitting atop a bluff overlooking the Allegheny River in western Pennsylvania, the 270,658-square-foot Armstrong Junior/Senior High School (AJSHS) is the largest school in Armstrong School District. The facility is the culmination of years of community debate, the topic of which is familiar to districts whose population is waning and student base is shrinking: how can our aging facilities best serve our students now and in the future?

Exploring Options

After exploring additions and renovations options for several outdated schools, the answer for Armstrong School District was to consolidate three schools into one new facility for up to 1,750 students in grades 7 to 12. The $47.6 million building is a symbol of stability and new beginnings for a region that has experienced the shutdown of major industries, population decline, and school closures. When the region was at its peak in the 1970s, there were seven high schools in the district. By the time AJSHS was built in 2015, two of the three remaining high schools in the district were shuttered and its students were consolidated under one roof at the centrally located new school.

Reynolds performed program management services while the district was debating what to do with its schools, then preconstruction- and construction-phase management services for construction of the new school, which includes a 1,200-seat main gymnasium, 1,000-seat auditorium, 300-seat auxiliary gym, and separate cafeterias for junior high and senior high students.

Staying On-Time and On-Budget

Senior project manager Roshelle Fennell, CDT, and on-site construction manager Steve Reckhart, CCCA, CDT, guided the construction through the tight schedule, even when it seemed like nature was conspiring against the project’s progress. Prior to site development, with the creation of a mile-long access road in the balance, it was discovered that an endangered, federally-protected bat species nested within the 68-acre parcel of land designated for the school. Progress was halted while the district worked with the U.S. Fish and Game Commission and the Indiana Bat Conservation Fund to purchase nearby wooded areas. With the bats settled in their new home, site development could continue.

Then a particularly harsh winter tried its best to derail the project. Roshelle recalls, “The extremely cold winter delayed critical work and put the project behind schedule. It was imperative that the district move in on time since they were combining two existing high schools into one and the complex coordination for that move was well underway and could not be changed. Reynolds solved the problem by pushing the contractors to stay focused and on-track despite the weather and by coming up with alternative sequencing of work. Everyone worked as a team and the school was opened on time.”

Achieving Successful Outcomes

Impressed by Reynolds’ successful delivery of AJSHS, the district hired Roshelle and the Reynolds team for subsequent energy projects at their elementary schools. Reynolds performed investment grade audits for needed energy and infrastructure upgrades and replacements at the Shannock Valley and Elderton Elementary Schools.

“The Armstrong School District has worked with Reynolds on three projects over the past five years, and one of the main reasons those projects were so successful was from the leadership provided by Roshelle,” noted Armstrong School District business manager Sam Kirk. “Because of her knowledge and persistence, these projects were able to stay within budget and, more importantly, finish on time without any impact on our day-to-day duties of educating children. It has been a pleasure working with Roshelle not only during the projects, but also after project completion as she continues to provide us guidance and answer questions.”

Peters Township School District, a nearby district also building a new high school with Roshelle at the helm, echoes Armstrong’s praise for her and Reynolds. “We have been very pleased with how well the Reynolds team has been managing the construction of the new Peters Township High School,” said Jeannine French, superintendent at Peters Township. “Roshelle has been keeping the project moving forward in line with our expectations. She has a solid and detailed understanding of the project plans and timelines. Her straightforward communication, construction knowledge, and insistence on accountability have kept the multiple prime contractors working together to deliver an exceptional new building.”

To experience the difference the Reynolds team can make on your next school project, contact Reynolds today.

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