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Slippery Rock school board discusses fate of signature barn

"This is Rocket Territory" is painted on the side of a barn at the end Rocket Drive leading to Slippery Rock Area High School in Slippery Rock Township on Wednesday. Cary Shaffer/Butler Eagle

The fate of the iconic wooden barn welcoming passersby to the Slippery Rock Area School District is in question after a recent engineering study of the building detailed “framing deterioration” and “significant lateral foundation movement.”

The white barn, at 101 Rocket Drive in Slippery Rock, features bright red lettering that declares, “This is Rocket Territory” and serves as unheated storage space for groundskeeping equipment and materials.

It would cost about $300,000 to repair, superintendent Alfonso Angelucci said after the Monday, March 27, meeting where the board received a report conducted by Barber and Hoffman Inc. (B&H) and heard from a number of community members with opinions about the structure.

“It’s kind of a symbol, an entrance to the school district. That makes it sentimental to people in the district, myself included,” Angelucci said.

However, money to repair the barn could “do a lot more for the district” and have a “greater benefit” elsewhere, he continued.

Vito Pilosi, board president, echoed these sentiments at the meeting.

“As a board, I can say that no one wants to take that barn down,” Pilosi said. But it needs to be done, he continued.

Mark Taylor, Region 1 board member, said that he “doesn’t want someone’s death on his conscience.”

This white barn, located at 101 Rocket Drive in Slippery Rock, features bright red lettering that declares, “This is Rocket Territory” and serves as unheated storage space for grounds keeping equipment and materials. Submitted photo/ Barber and Hoffman Inc.
The study

Within the engineering study, which is posted to the school district’s website, B&H described signs of framing deterioration, lateral foundation movement and an improper framing modification. It said lateral shifting is most notable in the middle of the barn where equipment enters and exits the building.

Recommendations included removing and replacing approximately 200 square feet of floor framing and decking related to the framing deterioration, replacement of the front wall related to the lateral foundation movement and more.

The B&H report recommended “discontinuing using the building” if certain repairs are not made.

“Structural deficiencies observed all tend to compromise stability, particularly the overall leaning of the wall, floor, and columns. When walls and columns are out of vertical alignment, additional load from self weight, equipment, and items stored can amplify leaning and lead to an unstable condition,” the report said. “Therefore, B&H recommends structural bracing be installed as soon as possible to counteract further shifting.”

The barn takes up a 50-feet by 36-feet space and stands 29 feet tall at the ridge when referenced from the upper level, the report said.

What’s next?

No action was taken Monday. Angelucci anticipates a decision would come no later than June.

Pilosi recommended looking to the staff and community for input.

“It’s not as simple as tearing a barn down, there’s legal aspects, liabilities, and compliance with the law that needs to be addressed,” he said.

Diane Double, Region II board member, expressed concern about safety issues, to which Taylor responded that it should be barricaded.

“The foundation shift because of water filtration damaged the structure to the point that any time there is a wind above 15 or 20 miles per hour, no one should be near the barn, it can go at any time,” Taylor said.

Theresa Pearce, Region III board member, requested proper signage be put up to keep people away.

When she asked Taylor of a time frame for tearing it down, he replied, “sooner rather than later.”

Pilosi encouraged everyone to read the report online.

“Let’s hear from the people regarding a monument, or something to commemorate the barn. Let’s involve the community, the students,” Pilosi said.

The superintendent said after the meeting that perhaps a mural could be made for display in the renovated high school.

Raabe scholarship

The board approved the establishment of the Amy Raabe Scholarship, a stand-alone scholarship fund in memory of Raabe. She died earlier this month after battling cancer.

Raabe was a Slippery Rock High School graduate, district resident and registered dietitian. She had a passion for nutrition and pioneered the Youngstown State University athletics sports nutrition program and served as a dietetic technician. She was active throughout her children’s sports careers and supportive of both the district and the community.

Raabe’s family requested in lieu of flowers, memorial donations be sent to Slippery Rock Area School District. In the near future, a link will be provided on the district’s website for donations.

Board member sworn in, employee honored

Jessica Twentier, of Harrisville, newly elected Region I board member, took her oath of office. Region I represents Mercer and Slippery Rock townships and Harrisville.

Twentier has two young children in the district, is an active member of the Parent Teacher Organization and is involved with youth sports. She will fill the role until the first Monday in December.

“I want to be a voice for the kids,” she said.

Sandy Whitmer, secretary to the middle school principal, was presented with the monthly Rocket Pride Award by Angelucci. Nominated by Paul Cessar for being an exemplary employee who has dedicated her days off, after-school hours, and before school time to ensure classes have the materials they need.

Cessar said he is “most impressed by her relationship with her co-workers.” The mahogany wood award is engraved by students and the teacher at the high school’s woodshop class.

“I appreciated the acknowledgment. It’s a family in all of the buildings. I love working here. We have a great school district,” Whitmer said.

Town Crier

Slippery Rock Area School District

At the school board meeting Monday, March 27:

* The school board approved the sales to the highest bidders as follows: a tractor for $5,600, a dump truck for $6,900, vending machines for $1,255 and a shed for $401. There were more than 31 bids total.

* The board approved Sentinel One, Complete Professional Package and Vigilance Response 24/7 Defense Response at a cost of $5,650 annually. This is a manage, detect, and respond cybersecurity that will detect threats and protect the school’s data against breaches.

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