This article was written and released by Karen Mansfield of the Observer-Reporter. The original article can be found by clicking here!
Canon-McMillan Middle School’s motto is “Expect the Best.”
And the new, approximately $78 million middle school, situated on 32 acres in North Strabane Township, delivers exactly that.
School district staff and administrators conducted tours of the new school – where every square inch of the innovative building has been designed with students, learning, creativity, and curiosity in mind – at a grand opening held Monday morning.
Among those in attendance were members of the Canon-McMillan educational family – including teachers and school board members from present and past, administrators, and local officials.
Said Middle School Principal Ken Schrag, “My sincere thank you to the board and administration for making a decision to provide a building that matches the first-class education that our district middle school students receive.”
In 2021, the middle school was designated by U.S. News and World Report as a Best Middle School and has been recognized by the Pennsylvania “Schools to Watch” program.
The three-story, 214,183-square-foot building, located across from Allegheny Health Network Canonsburg Hospital, is now home to about 850 students in grades seven and eight and encompasses Canonsburg borough and Cecil and North Strabane townships.
The gleaming, state-of-the-art building boasts a Team Room on each floor – a collaboration area with flexible furniture designed to accommodate multiple classes and encourage collaboration, “a key component to middle school instruction,” Schrag said.
Other amenities include updated technology labs; a music wing; a gifted/maker space; a top-notch auditorium and spacious gymnasium; and a storm shelter capable of withstanding winds exceeding 100 miles per hour.
And, to the delight of staff and students, the building has air conditioning. The former middle school, in Canonsburg, wasn’t air-conditioned.
Superintendent Michael Daniels said construction of the new middle school was nearly a decade in making. Students were slated to move into the building at the start of the 2022-23 school year, but the COVID-19 pandemic and other issues led to a delay of a few months.
“We developed a plan in spring 2014. The thought was, we need to do something. Our buildings are old and dilapidated. Nothing was even close to being conducive to being equipped with the technology that we strive for in education these days,” said Daniels.
Growing enrollment also was a factor in the school district’s decision to build a new middle school.
“Our enrollment was crazy, our buildings were bursting at the seams, literally. When push came to shove we needed a new building,” said Daniels, adding, “I will share that the board, the past and current, has not lost sight of the vision to move forward and to know what’s important to our students. It is absolutely a beautiful facility.”
During the grand opening, the Canon-McMillan Middle School Student Council officers buried a time capsule that included items selected to reflect significant moments of the school and the time period.
Among the items were a lunch menu; a Big Mac logo; a COVID-19 test kit and Canon-McMillan face mask; a fidget toy; a middle school musical program; chalk; a newspaper featuring an article about the late Manuel Pihakis, a three-time PIAA champion wrestler at Canon-McMillan High School and longtime school board member, and a poster featuring the signatures of the members of the Class of 2027.
Said Assistant Superintendent Dr. Greg Taranto, “This is the combination of careful planning, a collective effort of our board, current and past, administrators, and faculty and staff coming together. This is what we should be doing in Canon-Mac. Our students deserve this type of facility that matches the type of teaching that is going on.”
Art teacher Laureen Trovato happily guided guests around the art room, where light from walls of windows poured into the classroom.
“It’s the most exciting space I’ve ever worked in,” said Trovato. “It’s got everything – natural light, track lighting, a sound system, dry racks that go under the counter. I don’t know what it doesn’t have. It’s very exciting.”
The state-of-the-art library/media center and the cafeteria also feature plenty of natural lighting.
The central administration office also has been relocated to the site of the new middle school. It includes expanded office space and a larger board room.
Taranto said students were delighted when they arrived at their new academic home last week.
“Their jaws dropped. They were so excited to move in,” said Taranto. “I can’t stop smiling. This is something our students deserve.”