MONONGAHELA – Ringgold School District officially marked the start of construction Wednesday of a new middle school that was the target of heated debate at school board meetings for a decade.
The district held a groundbreaking ceremony for the new $42-million school to house grades 5 through 8 on the high school campus along Route 136 in Carroll Township.
“This has been a long, long time in coming,” Ringgold board President William Stein said at the event. “It’s the biggest investment we’ve made in 35 years.”
He said the new school was “debated, studied and fought over” for too many years.
The district needs to replace Ringgold Middle School built in 1962 in Finleyville, which was the building has serious structural problems and it’s too small to house fifth graders and many other programs.
Board members and taxpayers debated fiercely for several years about relocating middle school classrooms into closed elementary schools in Donora and Monongahela, buildings eventually sold at auction.
The school board last month awarded the construction contract to Hudson Group Inc. of Hermitage at a cost of $24.4 million, along with other contracts, including the installation of a heating and air conditioning system.
The two-story school will be constructed in the shape of a rectangle with an open central courtyard. Construction actually began on the school in early April, and it’s scheduled for completion in August 2017.
The 141,962-square-foot building will have a cyber café-themed media center and a 646-seat auditorium. It was designed to be near the high school to allow students in both buildings to share spaces.
Ringgold Superintendent Karen Polkabla said a tab will be added to the district’s website to provide weekly updates on the construction project.
In other business, Monongahela Area Library Director Tiffany Jean Fleet made a plea to the board to return a funding stream to the library, which is used by students who have no internet connection at home, and others whose parents do not know how to use the internet.
Director Larry Mauro said the board would discuss funding libraries in upcoming budget meetings. Mauro said he would like to see a school board member be appointed to the library board in the event a library funding stream is restored.