Sewickley Academy officials spotlighted several renovated and redesigned spaces as part of an open house for alumni, parents and guests.
Spaces included four computer science rooms in the Oliver Building, a new middle school/high school cafeteria and admissions suite in the School Center, and a brand new health and wellness facility called the Panthers Performance Center.
“I see Sewickley Academy is focused toward the future,” said Brad Busatto, a 1988 graduate and father of a sophomore and a 2016 grad. “Not only with computer science, but also wellness. I also see an intersection with the arts, too. This investment is something that’s going to pay dividends for my daughter (and) also the next several decades.
“If we’re going to be using the tagline, ‘Educating tomorrow’s leaders,’ I think this demonstrates it in a lot of ways.”
Busatto, an Edgeworth resident and academy trustee, was among the dozens of open house visitors on Feb. 1.
He said he got the same feel walking the halls then as he did in the 1980s.
“It was a welcoming place,” Buscatto said. “It was serious about academics, and there was a place for everybody here. I had so many really great friends that I am still friends with now that had so many different interests and personalities and goals — but we all just fit together.
“There were some really exceptional teachers.”
Academy officials said it was the largest gift in the private pre-k to 12th grade school’s 184-year history.
The academy worked with R3A Architecture and Turner Construction to renovate the computer science rooms.
“Everything was very thorough and everyone was on the same page,” said R3A interior architect Tara Gangwar. “It’s really great that it turned out to look so much like the renderings we had initially produced, which is awesome. It’s great to hear that the students are really pleased and engaged with the space because we did some cutting-edge things, especially for middle school.”
One of the rooms is a computer lab with at least 20 devices and a wall made, in part, with preserved plants. The look was inspired by “The Matrix” movie franchise.
Middle-schoolers have a renovated Lego robotics room to work in, which is complete with new kits, competitive table layouts and programmable robots.
“The students start basically with a brick and they have to build everything from scratch,” said Erin Whitaker, computer science teacher and ed tech coordinator. “When we reconfigured this space, instead of one table we have multiple tables, which allows students more time to work on their robots to complete the challenges.
“The functionality of the room does help. We were able to purchase new robots. So instead of a 2-to-1 ratio, we now have a 1-to-1 ratio of robots so each student can have their own robot to program.”
Students can also work with Finch robots designed by Carnegie Mellon University, as well as a variety of apps and programs.
Computer science teacher and tech coordinator Jeffrey Patrick said other educational components include studying significant historical events and technological advancements from the 1950s to today.
“We’re not just (computer) coding all day,” he said. “We have some hands-on activities for the kids as well as exploring electronics and other devices.”
Its new health and wellness facility called Panthers Performance Center, also referred to by students and some staffers as “The Den,” is about 10,000 square feet and packed with equipment from PLAE.
The Georgia-based company has provided elite training environments throughout the globe, including the University of Florida. Sewickley Academy’s layout is very similar to the university’s gym, just with different logos.
Sports performance and wellness coach Sam Futrovsky, who joined the academy in August, said the center is a combination of the old weight room and a former yoga and fitness studio. They knocked out a wall and installed other infrastructure to grant easy access to everything.
“This has been an incredible work in progress,” Futrovsky said. “My first day on Aug. 15, we had just a floor. In my time here, it has grown tremendously in all that we’ve been able to do here. One of the great benefits of this space is that we get to work with middle-school kids.
“Once a week, every middle-school kid gets a chance for the team and (physical education) class that they have to come into this room and develop a lot of fundamental movements of fitness. Learning how to navigate a world like this, learning an environment like this. Creating that feeling that it’s a welcomed space no matter what your fitness level is.”
The academy worked with LGA Architecture and Mosites Construction on the entrance to the School Center, the admissions suite, office spaces and related rooms.
Academy chief external relations officer Dave Fortna said they wanted to “bring an element of that collegian feel” to those spaces and invest in the students’ “holistic experience.”
Renovations began last spring. Most of the work was completed in September. The computer science spaces were opened a little more than a week ago.
“We wanted to create a k-12 environment that would allow students to go on to any ‘best-fit’ college for them, and have the skills necessary to thrive,” Fortna. “It’s really creating an educational experience here, and that was the guiding mission with a lot of it: Building an environment that gives students the ability to take their education and career any direction they want.”
Sewickley Academy has about 480 students.
Student tuition varies per grade category. Groups are broken up in pre-k and kindergarten, first through fifth grade, sixth through eighth grade and ninth through 12th grade.
More information is available at sewickley.org.