Superintendent Recommends Delay In Closing Peebles Elementary

Posted: March 20, 2013 in Community Information, Press Coverage

North Allegheny Patch

Dr. Raymond Gualtieri suggests Peebles be closed at the end of the 2013-2014 school year.

By Richard Cook

To the surprise of several members of the North Allegheny School Board, Superintendent Raymond Gualtieri recommended Wednesday night a one-year delay in the proposed closing of Peebles Elementary School.

The extra time would allow the district to add five additional classrooms to McKnight Elementary School. The space, located at the east end of the school, is currently under roof, but not built out. Gualtieri said the extra classrooms would give the district spare space in the event enrollment increases beyond current projections.

Tara Fisher, of the group Save NA Schools , which has been fighting the closing of any elementary school in the district, said the recommendation didn’t make sense to her.

“It is shocking to hear the district is considering taking on new construction at the same time it’s considering closing a top performing, well maintained building in the heart of the district,” she said. “This is another example of the information surrounding the recommendation to close Peebles continuing to change. A decision of this magnitude should not be based on ever-changing data, floor plans and an 11th hour amendment that involves new construction.”

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  1. Denise Benko says:

    Congrats to EVERYONE who’s worked on this or prayer for at least this much!
    It’s not over…more time to wrk!

  2. Lynn Tonti says:

    It was good news at the meeting last night albeit quite surprising to all…including the Board. What I don’t understand is: why were we not told of these 5 additional classroom spaces at MCK before? Certainly, the Admin (& some on the Board) knew they existed. I’m somewhat suspect that the space comes up now…with the new closure proposal. Certainly its meant to make that more palatable. My fear is that the Board will vote to close Peebles and we will still not have enough elementary space (to keep class size appropriate)…and we will be stuck building an addition (Hosack)…or a mega-school. Once Peebles is leased…it will be altered and difficult and costly to return to an elementary. Plus these 5 MCK classrooms are going to cost 500,000K (+ staff & support)…why not just keep Peebles?? The Board election was somewhat silly…a done deal from the beginning. Five (5) of the nine Board members have a tenure ending in December 2013. So is this an election in May?

  3. Eileen Russell says:

    I am concerned that the administration is attempting to muddy the waters of this issue with talk of adding 5 classrooms to McKnight Elementary. Dr. Miller stated in a recent school board meeting that the closure of Peebles would leave the remaining 6 schools with a total of 9-11 spare classrooms, the difference depending on how redistricting is conducted.

    At the school board meeting last night, several board members acknowledged community concerns regarding class sizes throughout the district exceeding 30 in a class. Mrs. Bishop suggested that the district look at setting a hard cap of 24 students per class in grades K-2 and 29 per class in grades 3-5.

    By Dr. Miller’s calculations, this would require that 10-14 homerooms be added. Thus, in order to keep class sizes under 30, every spare elementary classroom would be used, including the 5 classrooms that Dr. Gualtieri wants to add at McKnight.

    I think it makes much more sense to keep the seven elementary schools that we have and redistrict. We should go back to creating an additional section when numbers reach the recommended limit. Abandoning that practice is what led to the perception that we have “too many empty classrooms” in the first place.

    The administration also continues to ignore new housing developments in the district that are sure to bring new families into North Allegheny schools. Closing Peebles would leave the district no room to grow to accommodate students coming from the following developments, which include over 850 new homes within North Allegheny’s boundaries:
    1. Ridge Forest by Ryan, located off Nicholson Road
    –112 townhomes, 88 single family homes
    –community is actively selling with 21 presold homes
    2. Venango Trails, located in northern Marshall Township
    –120 townhomes, 350 single family homes
    –community is actively selling with 35 presold homes
    3. Village at Marshall Ridge by Ryan, located off Warrendale Bayne Road/I-79
    –104 townhomes
    –community is actively selling with 5 presold homes
    4. Waterford Place by Heartland, located off Ringeisen Road
    –14 single family homes
    –community is actively selling
    5. Chapel Hill Estates, located off Wexford Run Road
    –20 single family homes
    –community is actively selling
    6. Park Ridge Manor by Madia Homes, Summer Drive-Allison Park
    –20 single family homes
    –community is actively selling with 6 presold homes
    7. 33 acres of property sold behind Franklin Elementary
    –developer unknown
    –30 single family home sites have been proposed

  4. kpdriscoll says:

    Sounds like the decision has still been made, but the closure postponed by a year. It’s not a victory, just buying some silence.

  5. alan lilienthal says:

    I am trying to digest last evenings board meeting and surprise turn of events and need some help understanding what we just learned:

    We started out recommending a school closure given severe budget constraints and what was claimed to be “over capacity”. To me budget constraints means we have less money to spend than needed expenses, and “over capacity” means that we have more classrooms than needed when we relate that to current enrollment and projected enrollment which is said (by the district on the behalf or Mr Thomas) to be flat to declining. So the pitch was to close a school (PES) to gain needed operational efficiencies as the solution to the stated problem. So where are we now……we now have excess money to spend and from the communities perspective, which I am completely aligned with, higher than planned enrollment with a strong indication that the district’s projections and assumptions around enrollment will most likely be wrong again going forward and the elementary school student base will be likely to grow.

    So what do we hear from the administration……we hear that we should spend the excess money that we now have, to build out additional classroom space that we don’t need because I though we had “OVER CAPACITY”. If we have overcapacity why are we building anything when we have a top performing school in good physical order that remains an educational and mainstay gem in our collective community!

    One more note and this is from a very objective perspective……should we really be happy with the administration when they say that they have “listened to the community” and hence have now proposed to delay the implementation date of shuttering PES should the board vote to close the school…..when the very same administration is the group that made the recommendation for the crammed time line in the first place and is the root cause of the problem that was created in the community? To me it shows that we offered the better and more reasonable solution and they should be thanking us for doing a better job…… which is really their job because they should have the knowledge and expertise to do so! They are in the school administration business!!!

    In closing, there remains in my mind no business viable or tangible reason why PES should be closed and our community effort should now even strengthen to keep this and probably any other school that might be recommended for closure, open. And in the event any school needs to be shuttered, we need a full and robust cost and reward analysis on all schools which in my view and based on the studies to date, would most likely point to BWE as the closure candidate. Also, there was reference to a focus group being established as part of next steps and to me this is very concerning on two fronts: 1) it falls well short of the “Community Task Force” that has been requested early on by this community and 2) I would doubt that a “focus” group would have any ability to drive any change to any process that will be uncovered once the redistricting scenarios are rolled out to the community. It was undefined last evening and again in my opinion is a very weak and alternative pacifier to the level of community involvement and influence that is needed as we move forward with our efforts to help keep PES open and continuing to provide the quality care and education for the kids!!

    One more observation……last night’s meeting was billed partly as an update to demographics and feasibility, none of which in my opinion even remotely occurred. No new data, no new data providers, and when we look back over prior board meeting events there has been relatively consistent acknowledgement and concern by most that the data that we have is so flawed that it cannot be relied upon for such a critical school closure decision. Unless I missed something………..??

  6. Joe Cramblit says:

    One thing that struck me from Dr. G’s statement is that the focus groups would be formed from each of the remaining elementary schools. This suggests first that he believes this is a done deal, just delayed and second that parents from Peebles would not be included. This is ironic since every child from this school would be redistricted as opposed to partial redistricting of students from other affected schools, and incidently I don’t think this guy says anything by accident.There should be no closure of any school given our district growth and the sooner the administration and board comes to grips with this reality, the sooner they can stop wasting all this time and start working to solve the financial problems we face. Though if they could all just look forward two years there might not be any problems after all.

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