Last updated: February 20. 2013 1:38AM - 797 Views

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BUTLER TWP. – Renovations to a shell building that will house a new magnet school in the Hazleton area are progressing as contractors complete their second full week of work on the $11 million project.

Ed Shemansky, assistant facilities director and construction manager for the Hazleton Area School District, said contractors began working steadily on Dec. 26 on what will be the Hazleton Area Academy of Sciences – a high school focusing on science, technology, engineering and math.

The district has been struggling to accommodate an average of 300 new students over each of the last five years and searching for ways to bring students back into buildings from 24 modular classrooms spread across the district.

The CAN DO building is one answer. In October 2011, the board approved the $4.42 million purchase from the Greater Hazleton Community Area New Development Organization for the building in the CAN DO Corporate Center and two adjoining lots. Construction/renovation bids came in at $6,191,000, Shemansky said.

The board also voted to buy the former Bishop Hafey High School building from the Diocese of Scranton for approximately $5.5 million. That renovation project was pegged at $17 million.

The board considered a number of options – from new construction to expansion – and settled on acquisition of existing buildings as the least-expensive alternative.

The CAN DO building will accommodate about 480 students, according to the district's architect Crabtree, Rohrbaugh & Associates of Mechanicsburg. The Hafey school would house 563 students, Harry Pettoni, senior project manager with the firm, has said.

Shemansky said the two-floor magnet school will offer about 45,000 square feet and will have about 16 flex classrooms with moveable partitions to accommodate various class sizes as needed. The non-traditional structure will include a café setting rather than a traditional cafeteria and a fitness room rather than a gymnasium.

Magnet schools are public schools that offer specialized courses or curricula.

Currently, contractors were working on tearing out the concrete floor and installing new plumbing. Work will continue throughout the winter and is expected to be complete by Aug. 31.

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