Archive for December, 2012

What would McKnight Elementary have looked like if Peebles was closed this year?  This slide is from the Administration’s November 28th presentation to the school board:  MCK Scenario #1  

  • McKnight would pick up 57 new students if Peebles was closed.
  • Its operating capacity would go from 88% to 95%.
  • 5th grade would have had to operate 6 sections (instead of 5) and use a spare room (which would have displaced the ESL program).
  • 4th grade would have increased by 2 students per class (current class sizes are 27, 27, 28, 28, 28, but would have been 29, 29, 30, 30, 30).
  • 3rd grade classes would have increased by 3 students per class (current class sizes are 26, 26, 26, 26, 26, but would have all been 29 students).
  • 2nd grade would have had to operate 6 sections (instead of 5) and use a spare room (which would have displaced programs operating in that room).
  • 1st grade would have increased to 25 students in EVERY CLASS (which is the district class size guideline for grades K-2).
  • Kindergarten would pick up 6 new kids and no new sections.
  • With the extra sections added under the new model (grades 2 and 5), 2 spare “classrooms” would remain (Student Assistance Room and Faculty Lounge).
  • If current enrollment goes up, McKnight would have to use its Student Assistance Room and Faculty Lounge as classrooms.

Using Pennsylvania Department of Education guidelines, McKnight has an 875 student gross capacity.  As discussed in yesterday’s post, buildings are not designed to run at gross capacity.  If Peebles is closed, McKnight would have an enrollment of 851 students and be just 24 students shy of operating at its gross capacity.

To learn more about the impact of operating at gross capacity, go to the Building Utilization Video on the North Allegheny School District web site.  Let the video load and listen to the consultant’s comments at minute 42.  He states that it’s unrealistic to operate buildings at gross capacity and that the district does not have the ability to close an elementary school unless it abandons Pennsylvania Department of Education guidelines and uses its own guidelines instead.

See page 19 (Attachment #6) of the SaveNASchools Community Report for Pennsylvania Department of Education gross capacity guidelines at each school.  Reference the far left column titled “PDE Capacity per Most Recent PlanCon Submission” to locate the 875 student gross capacity for McKnight.

If Peebles had been closed this year, how would the other buildings have been impacted?  We will be highlighting class size and other issues at the remaining buildings in our posts this week.  Today’s focus is on Ingomar Elementary. [Click IES- final (scenario #1) for more detail. The slide is from the Administration’s November 28th presentation to the school board.]

  • Ingomar would pick up 79 new students if Peebles was closed.
  • Its operating capacity would go from 75% to 90%.
  • 5th grade classes would have increased by 4 students per class (current class sizes are 23, 23, and 23, but would have been 27, 27, 27).
  • 4th grade classes would have increased by an average of 7 students per class (current class sizes are 21, 22, and 23, but would have been 29, 29, and 28).
  • 3rd grade would have had to operate 4 sections (instead of 3) and use a spare classroom (which would have displaced programs operating in that room).
  • 2nd grade would have had to operate 4 sections (instead of 3) and use a spare classroom (which would have displaced programs operating in that room).
  • 1st grade classes would have increased by an average of 2 students per class (current class sizes are 21, 21, 22, but would have been 24, 24, 24).
  • Kindergarten would have had 13 new kids and operated an extra section.
  • With the extra sections added under the new model 2 spare “classrooms” would remain (the Music room and GOAL room).
  • If current enrollment goes up, Ingomar would have to use its Music room and GOAL room as classrooms. 

This is the perfect illustration of operating at target capacity v. gross capacity.  It’s important to understand that buildings are designed to run at their target capacity and NOT gross capacity.  Pennsylvania Department of Education guidelines establish a 450 student target capacity and a 550 student gross capacity for Ingomar Elementary.

Current enrollment at Ingomar is 406 students.  If Peebles is closed, the enrollment at Ingomar Elementary would be 485 students.  Thus, Ingomar would be operating above its 450 student target capacity.  To reach its 550 student gross capacity, it would utilize additional rooms (Music and GOAL) to accommodate 65 more students (550-485).  This is why it’s not realistic to operate a building at gross capacity.

However, under the new model, the administration has abandoned Pennsylvania Department of Education guidelines and established a 510 student target capacity (instead of 450) for Ingomar.

Bottom Line:  Under the new model, the administration is targeting 104 more students at Ingomar than what it has now (510-406) by abandoning Pennsylvania Department of Education guidelines and using its own district guidelines instead.

To learn more about the impact of operating at gross capacity, go to the Building Utilization Video on the North Allegheny School District web site.  Let the video load and listen to the consultant’s comments at minute 42.  He states that it’s unrealistic to operate buildings at gross capacity and that the district does not have the ability to close an elementary school unless it abandons Pennsylvania Department of Education guidelines and uses its own guidelines instead.

See page 19 of the SaveNASchools Community Report  for Pennsylvania Department of Education target capacity and gross capacity guidelines for each school.

On December 19th, school board members will vote YES or NO to schedule a public hearing related to the closure of Peebles Elementary.  It is the school board members who have the power to close a school.  They are not required to follow the administration’s recommendation.  A public hearing is the first step in the process for closing the school.  We are launching a movement to get school board members to VOTE NO to the public hearing.

Here are the top 5 Things YOU can do:

  1. Register to speak at the December 19th meeting.  You can simply stand up and say “Vote NO” if you are not comfortable with public speaking.  Call 412-369-5437 and ask to speak at the BEGINNING of the meeting.
  2. Contact members of the school board.  You can call them or write them a letter.  Click here for Contact Information and here for a Form letter.  We suggest you focus your efforts on:
    1. Joe Greenberg
    2. Libby Blackburn
    3. Chris Jacobs
    4. Tom Schwartzmier

    PLEASE REQUEST THAT THE BOARD MEMBERS VOTE NO TO SETTING THE DATE FOR THE PUBLIC HEARING.  You can also use one (or more) of the following points as a basis for your conversation or voice mail.

  3. Write a letter to the editor.  Letters should be no more than 250 words and should only focus on one topic.  Click here for letter to the editor details and a link to the Post Gazette Editorial dept.
  4. Attend the December 19th meeting. Consider arranging childcare so that both you and your spouse can attend.  The meeting is at 7pm at Carson Middle School.
  5. Forward this email to 10 people.  Tell everyone YOU know about the impact on the remaining buildings. Explain that this is is not a done deal and get them to attend the meeting on December 19th!

Members of SaveNASchools met Sunday night at the Peebles Volunteer fire company to plan strategy and focus the group’s fight against the proposed closing of the Peebles Elementary School.

To read more from the North Allegheny Patch, click here:

http://northallegheny.patch.com/articles/north-allegheny-parents-meet-to-plot-strategy-focus-message-against-peebles-elementary-closing#photo-12513473

SaveNASchools is a group that advocates keeping all 7 of the district’s elementary schools open based on the following 5 points…

  1. We believe that the district’s elementary buildings should not operate above Pennsylvania Department of Education capacity guidelines.  The district does not have the ability to close an elementary school unless it accepts higher capacities than those established by the state.
  2. We believe that operating the remaining elementary buildings at capacities that depend on spare classrooms and increase class size will compromise the district’s ability to deliver excellence in education.  The new model will be dependent on spare classrooms the very first day, which have been identified as faculty lounges, learning support rooms and music rooms.  The remaining buildings will experience an increase in class size with respect to grades 3-5, except for Hosack (which already has classes of 30+ students) and Franklin (which is currently operating above capacity).
  3. We believe that 3rd grade should have a class size guideline of 25 students instead of 30 (similar to other districts).  The new model is based on 30 students for each 3rd grade class and operating six schools instead of seven does not provide the district with enough capacity to accept 25 students per class now or in the future.
  4. We believe that the decision to close a school could ultimately cost the district more money than it would save because the new model cannot reasonably accommodate future growth.  The 5-year enrollment projections prepared by the Administration have consistently understated actual enrollment for the past 13 years.
  5. We believe that the decision to close a school should be based upon solid, empirical evidence that such decision is in the best interest of the district as a whole.  The report that recommended closing Peebles Elementary used population data that does not tie to the 2010 U.S. Census and included a mathematical error that concludes there will be a decline in McCandless, when, in fact, the population is projected to remain stable.

On November 28th, the Administration recommended closing Peebles Elementary and estimated that the district would save $850,000 per year (contingent on a $1million/year lease).  That same night, it requested $856,000 to purchase new buses for next year. 

SaveNASchools recommends deferring the purchase of new buses for one year and appointing a community task force to provide additional thoughts and ideas for addressing the district’s projected deficits before moving forward with a process as drastic and irreversible as closing a school. 

A December 6th Post-Gazette article included a comment by a parent that said Peebles or Hosack students would be hurt by attending McKnight, which the parent categorized as an underperforming school.

This statement was not made by SaveNASchools.  It was made by a parent who attended the board meeting on November 28th.  SaveNASchools does not agree with the parent’s statement.

SaveNASchools is a group that believes the district is comprised of 7 top-notch elementary schools and advocated in its November 28th Community Report to keep all 7 elementary schools open.  Page 3 of the report specifically advocates for McKnight Elementary.  It notes that McKnight Elementary would become dependent on spare classrooms the first day the new elementary model went into effect and that the district’s ability to deliver excellence in education to these students would be compromised.

McKnight Elementary is a phenomenal school with a reputation for excellence.  SaveNASchools is comprised of many parents from McKnight Elementary and these families represent everything that makes this district great.

Wiring, windows recommended for NA schools

“…The district has 54 proposed projects at the schools, Newman Stadium, Baierl Center and the bus garage for a total cost of $2.6 million. Projects are proposed at most district buildings, with the exception of three elementary schools: Peebles, which the administration has proposed closing; Bradford Woods; and Marshall. Repairs to Bradford Woods and Marshall have been deferred to the fifth year of the plan, Mr. Gaertner said…”

Community group questions North Allegheny enrollment projections

“If an elementary school building is closed, current enrollment would account for 90 percent of the total available seats in the remaining buildings,” said Tara Fisher, 36, of McCandless, a member of Save NA Schools. “It limits the district’s ability to keep class sizes below district guidelines.”

The report concludes that the district has a history of underestimating enrollment and that an enrollment increase could end up costing the district more money in the long run if a school is closed. The report also concludes that the district cannot guarantee the same level of education if a school is closed.

http://triblive.com/news/allegheny/3081573-74/district-board-enrollment#axzz2EBM1tEFZ

Open notice to the Community!

MEETING AT PEEBLES FIRE Station ON SUNDAY, DECEMBER 9th at 8pm.(Located 1391 Duncan Avenue)

This meeting will address how the closure of Peebles Elementary will impact the rest of the district (elementary and middle schools), how to best express your concerns to school board members, and how to get the message out to other members of the community.

This meeting will also address the board’s next action in scheduling a public hearing for January 30th. We need the community to unite in a stance against the closure of a top performing elementary school in the heart of the North Allegheny school district that will negatively impact all of the district’s remaining elementary schools.

Questions?  Email us at  saveNAschools@gmail.com

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

North Allegheny could close Peebles Elementary in cost-saving move

“Tara Fisher, 36, of McCandless, part of the “Save NA Schools” group, passed out a 32-page report contesting the conclusions made by the administration. Fisher contends the school closure would push up class sizes and bring the district dangerously close to capacity in the remaining buildings.

“It’s less than one percent of the district’s budget,” Fisher said. “I’m saying it’s not worth it. You’re disrupting the entire elementary education model.”
Read more: http://triblive.com/neighborhoods/yournorthhills/yournorthhillsmore/3040037-87/district-schools-board-closure-elementary-gualtieri-peebles-allegheny-close-closing#ixzz2Dp21Icfd