Safety Sacrifices

The largest source of natural light at NASH will soon be traded for a safer and more secure entrance.


photo by Jordan Atkins

The glass at the first-floor entrance to NASH may offer welcome natural light, but it also poses a safety risk that has led the district administration to agree to an upcoming renovation.

Jordan Atkins, Staff Writer

It’s been a running joke among students and staff, probably since 1974 when NASH was built, that the building has precious few windows.  But soon it could have fewer — and for good reason.

In August, the North Allegheny School Board accepted the proposal from VEBH Architects for a cost of $132,636.00 to provide the design and construction oversight services for the relocation of the Main Office areas and modifications to the Main Entrance at NASH.  The renovation project is proposed to replace the first-floor main entrance windows with brick and move the Main Office to the front of the building. Additionally, the proposal will greatly enhance the aesthetics on the first floor including a renovated cafeteria space, a large group instruction facility, and additional female bathrooms for large events held in the auditorium.  At present, visitors to the office or elsewhere in the building must first walk through the lunchroom, which at the busiest times of day contains well over 500 students.

Thus, the current design poses significant safety risks.

“The biggest issue we have, as far as what we conducted with a safety analysis of the building, is the location of the main entrance and access to our cafeteria,” NASH Principal Dr. Kreider said. “Research indicates that the very beginning of the day and the very end of the day are when schools are most vulnerable to any type of safety issue. So, at the present time, I would say that our main entrance is the largest safety concern for students and staff.”

At the present time, I would say that our main entrance is the largest safety concern for students and staff.”

Board President Rick McClure told the Post-Gazette that “[i]t is going to be a very nice upgrade, but it is also going to be a safe upgrade: more stone, less glass.”

For a building that is frequently criticized for having too few windows, the front of NASH does in fact contain a large amount of glass.

“Glass, in comparison to brick, is much easier to penetrate,” Kreider added. “So what we are looking at is hardening up the front of the building by eliminating a lot of the glass moving the Main Office area out to the front of the building. The office staff, along with building security, will be more strategically placed in front of the building.”

An especially active building, NASH welcomes  dozens and sometime hundreds of visitors per day, and their most common destination is the Main Office.

“Buildings are safer when you limit the amount of traffic that comes in,” Kreider said. “The majority of our meetings involving outside constituents take place inside the Main Office, and [once the renovation is complete] that would be a secure area. Visitors would be checked in and checked out there, so they would stay in the front of the building, instead of having to walk through the building.”

Among the student body, however, the news has not been welcomed to the same extent.

“I understand why the change is needed,” said junior Eric Tomino, “but it’s unfortunate because we already don’t have enough natural light here.”

Yet for Kreider, who acknowledges that students have a valid concern, there is a more important issue at stake.

“I certainly understand the student perspective of ‘we don’t get much daylight at all and now you are taking away our last glimpse of the sunshine,’” he added. “But the enjoyment that we get inside the schoolhouse with learning and after-school events doesn’t exist without a safe and secure building. The safety aspect is paramount.”

The renovation project is set to take place this summer.  Additionally, plans to move the Counseling Office and Health Office, other frequent visitor destinations, to the front of the building are under consideration, though no firm decisions have yet been made in that regard.