Lehigh Valley

ASD pitches learning dome planetarium

ALLENTOWN, Pa. - The Allentown School District is wishing upon a star.

The district wants to replace and renovate the ASD Planetarium, located at Louis E. Dieruff High School, with a new, state-of-the-art digital system.

During Thursday night's committee meetings, ASD rolled out the project, which is ambitious and expensive.

The Dieruff planetarium currently houses a 50-year-old A3P Star Projector which, with repair, can enable stargazers to view the night sky and learn the basics of astronomy. The district wants to upgrade it with a digital system called SciDome, which the district says is a second-generation planetarium product by a company called Spitz, Inc. The product is utilized under 125 other domes.

With the SciDome system, ASD says students will enter a new realm of learning, as the system "is designed for STEM teaching and the integration of math, writing, literature and history."

The district has coined a new name for the building - the ASD Learning Dome. The estimated cost for the upgrade is about $300,000.

ASD is enlisting the services of the ASD Foundation to help them get the money. The district will use the Sponsor a Star program, where people will pay ASD to sponsor different-sized stars. The school district has created naming categories, based on the level of donation. They would be displayed in the planetarium. The district is also looking for money from its own staff, saying they will "create a one-time donation" opportunity for staff members. For $25 a staff member will have their name displayed on a plaque in the planetarium.

If the district is hitting singles with that philosophy, they are looking for a home runs with their final plan. ASD wants a "lead sponsor" to give them $250,000. In return for the gift, the ASD Learning Dome moniker would be changed to reflect the name of that donor.

"It's more than a planetarium," Brandy Sawyer, ASD director of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, told the board during her presentation. "It's more than just stars."

In other business, the board also forwarded two bid awards for building repairs to the regular board meeting on March 23. It included awarding roof ventilator replacement work at Trexler Middle School to Spotts Brothers, Inc.

The Schuylkill Haven, Pa.-based company would receive $81,300 for the job. The second project involved partial roof replacements and a HVAC upgrade in room 232 at the administration building, to the same company.

That project would cost $228,460.


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