Archive for the ‘The Impact’ Category

What are North Allegheny’s class size guidelines and how will things change under the new model?

North Allegheny has class size guidelines of 25 students for primary grades (K-2) and 30 students for intermediate grades (3-5). The administration has noted that class size guidelines are NOT maximums.

Guidelines vs. actuals

–Demographics and Feasibility Update- October 2012

The administration has demonstrated that it is willing to let class sizes go above 30 students by accepting 4th grade classes of 31 and 32 students at Hosack this year. Hosack also has two 3rd grade classes with 30 students each.

It’s important to note that other school districts, like Pine-Richland, treat 3rd grade as a primary grade (instead of an intermediate grade) and thus maintain smaller class sizes. The school board has acknowledged that 3rd grade is a formative year and that the district has tried to hold 3rd grade classes closer to 25 students/class like other primary grades.

Per the Nov 28, 2012 school board minutes:

11.28.12 quotes- final

–NASD Official School Board Minutes- November 28, 2012

However, under the new model, the “number of available seats” is calculated based on 30 students in every 3rd grade class.  At McKnight, every 3rd grade class would have had 29 students in it and several 3rd grade classes across the district would have been at 27+ students. In fact, if Peebles had closed this year, the average 3rd grade class would have been 26.8 students at North Allegheny.

As you can see from the chart, the average 3rd grade class size at Pine-Richland is 21 students, the average 3rd grade class size at Mt. Lebanon is 21 students, and the average 3rd grade class size at Hampton is 24 students.

Bottom line: If Peebles is closed, 3rd grade classes at North Allegheny would be 5-6 students higher than the average 3rd grade class size in other districts.

Class Size other schools AVG as of 1.31.13-page-001

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We’re asking parents from every elementary school to register to speak at the January 30th hearing and speak about the impact closing Peebles will have on YOUR school.

You can register to speak by emailing the school board secretary, Rose Mary Ryan, at rryan@northallegheny.org.

If Peebles had closed this year, the impact on the remaining elementary school buildings would have been as outlined below (based on the administration’s October 24, 2012 proposed floor plans and their November 28, 2012 school board presentation):

Impact on Marshall Elementary

  • Marshall would have picked up 138 new students
  • Its operating capacity would have gone from 79% to 95%
  • 5th grade would have had to operate 5 sections (instead of 4)
  • 4th grade would have had to operate 5 sections (instead of 4)
  • 3rd grade would have had to operate 6 sections (instead of 5)
  • 2nd grade would have had to operate 6 sections (instead of 5)
  • 1st grade would have had to operate 7 sections (instead of 6)
  • Kindergarten would have had to operate 5 sections (instead of 4)

Based on the October 24th proposed floor plans, Marshall would’ve had to use its 4th Centrum and GOAL room as classrooms.

Only one “spare” room would’ve remained and it’s currently used for the YMCA program.

According to the Sept 28, 2011 school board minutes, the Venango Trails development (adjacent to Marshall) could add 190 students to the Marshall area.

Impact on McKnight Elementary

  • McKnight would have picked up 57 new students
  • Its operating capacity would have gone from 88% to 95%
  • 5th grade would have had to operate 6 sections (instead of 5)
  • 4th grade would have increased by 2 students per class (current class sizes are 27, 27, 28, 28, 28, but would’ve been 29, 29, 30, 30, 30).
  • 3rd grade classes would have increased to 29 students in EVERY CLASS
  • 2nd grade would have had to operate 6 sections (instead of 5)
  • 1st grade would have increased to 25 students in EVERY CLASS
  • Kindergarten would have picked up 6 new kids

Based on the October 24th proposed floor plans, only 2 “spares” would’ve remained at McKnight (the Student Assistance room and Faculty Lounge).

An increase of 1 student in 1st grade and 3 students in 4th grade would’ve required the use of both spares, unless the district goes above class size guidelines.

Impact on Ingomar Elementary

  • Ingomar would have picked up 79 new students
  • Its operating capacity would have gone 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’ve 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’ve been 29, 29, and 28)
  • 3rd grade would have had to operate 4 sections (instead of 3)
  • 2nd grade would have had to operate 4 sections (instead of 3)
  • 1st grade classes would have increased by an average of 2 students per class (current class sizes are 21, 21, 22, but would’ve been 24, 24, 24)
  • Kindergarten would’ve had 13 new kids and operated an extra section

Based on the October 24th proposed floor plans, only 2 “spares” would’ve remained at Ingomar (the LGI room and GOAL room). The LGI room has no windows. An increase of 4 students in 1st grade and an increase of 5 students in 4th grade would’ve required the use of both spares, unless the district goes above class size guidelines.

Impact on Bradford Woods Elementary

  • Bradford Woods would have picked up 36 new students
  • Its operating capacity would go from 74% to 81%
  • 5th grade would have increased by an average of 3 students per class (current class sizes are 24, 24, 26, but would’ve been 28, 28, 27)
  • 4th grade would have increased by an average of 2 students per class (current class sizes are 24, 25, 25, but would’ve been 27, 27, 27)
  • 3rd grade would have increased by an average of 3 students per class (current class sizes are 21, 21, 22, but would’ve been 24, 24, 24)
  • 2nd grade would have had to operate 4 sections (instead of 3)
  • 1st grade would have remained the same
  • Kindergarten would have increased by an average of 1.5 students

Based on the October 24th proposed floor plans, only 2 “spares” would’ve remained at Bradford Woods (the Life Skills and GOAL room). According to the Sept 28, 2011 school board minutes, the Venango Trails development (adjacent to Bradford Woods) could add 190 students to the Marshall area.

Impact on Hosack Elementary

  • Hosack would have picked up 135 new students
  • Its operating capacity would go from 61% to 86%
  • 5th grade would have operated with 3 sections (instead of 2)
  • 4th grade would have operated with 3 sections (instead of 2)
  • 3rd grade would have operated with 3 sections (instead of 2)
  • 2nd grade would have operated with 4 sections (instead of 3)
  • 1st grade would have operated with 4 sections (instead of 2)
  • Kindergarten would have operated with 3 sections (instead of 2)

Based on the October 24th proposed floor plans, only one “spare” would’ve remained at Hosack (the Learning Support room).

An increase of 6 students in either 3rd or 4th grade would’ve required the use of Hosack’s only spare room, unless the district goes above class size guidelines.

Hosack sits adjacent to several housing plans that are currently under construction, including Heartland Homes Waterford Place.

Impact on Franklin Elementary

  • Franklin’s enrollment would decrease by 59 students because it is currently operating above its target capacity of 510 students (it has 515 students)
  • Its operating capacity would go from 96% to 85%.
  • 5th grade would have operated 3 sections (same as currently).
  • 4th grade would have operated 3 sections (same as currently).
  • 3rd grade would have increased by an average of 3 students per class.
  • 2nd grade would have operated 4 sections (same as currently).
  • 1st grade would have operated 4 sections (same as currently).
  • Kindergarten would have operated 3 sections instead of 4.

Based on the October 24th proposed floor plans, only 2 “spares” would’ve remained at Franklin. One is a faculty lounge that is only 645 square feet. Franklin sits adjacent to several housing developments along Nicholson Road that include 85+ single family homes, 110+ townhouses, and 225+ apartments.

The proposed timeline for closing Peebles is an April 30, 2013 vote with closure effective for the 2013/2014 school year. In contrast, the proposed timeline for Bradford Woods was outlined as follows in the Aug 17, 2011 school board minutes:

8.17.11 Meeting minutes excerpts

So, why is the proposed timeline for Peebles an April 30th, 2013 vote with closure effective for the 2013/2014 school year?

The National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities provides the following guidelines with respect to the decision to close a school:

  • Ideally, a decision to close a school should be made as early as possible in the school year, but no later than December.”

There are several reasons:

  • “It will permit parents and students adequate time to adjust to choose a new school or adjust to their new assignment”
  • “It will provide adequate time to plan and execute the actual closing of the building.”
  • “It will permit the financial impacts to be included in the annual school budget. There will be both additional costs and savings that need to be identified for that school.”


“When a district builds a new school or renovates an existing building, there is usually a comprehensive community involvement process used. Closing a school should also include a similar process.
Adequate time to conduct this process is important so that all relevant information can be examined and included in the deliberations. This process must have integrity above all else.”

The latest installment of the district’s propaganda for closing Peebles is titled “FAQ: The Recommendation to Close Peebles Elementary School.”  Here are the 5 points we find most interesting:

  1. “NASD could close a small elementary school and still have 9 spare classrooms to work with for flexibility in the remaining six schools.”  The administration listed 11 spare classrooms in their Nov 28, 2012 presentation to the school board, but now they only have 9.  To be clear, 9 spares across 6 schools means some buildings would only have 1 spare available to manage class size.
  2. “Class size would not be affected.” 

The administration is using averages to mask what is happening on a per building basis.  The administration’s Nov 28, 2012 slides clearly illustrate that:

(1) McKnight, Ingomar, and Bradford Woods would have seen an increase in class size across multiple grade levels, and

(2) there would be 17 classes with 29+ students and minimal ability to manage class size given only one spare in some schools.

  1. “Peebles has no ‘spare classrooms’ when the facility is analyzed under the guidelines of the redistricting model, which allows for 4 sections of grades K-2.”  This highlights one of the biggest issues related to the district’s new model; the small schools that remain would be required to run 4 sections of K-2, even though they were only designed to run 3 sections.  The reason why no “spare” exists at Peebles, and only 1 or 2 “spares” exist in the remaining buildings, is because Hosack, Bradford Woods, Franklin, Ingomar, and Peebles were NOT designed to operate as 4-round schools.   
  2. “Closing Peebles Elementary School will save NASD at least $1.25M each year for the next seven years.”  The administration listed a savings of $850,000 in its Nov 28, 2012 presentation to the school board.  We wish we could explain the $400,000 change, but as we’ve already seen, the data supporting this recommendation is not consistent and continues to be a moving target.
  3. “The District does not have a tenant for the Peebles building.”  It has been confirmed that LaRoche College is the potential tenant for Peebles Elementary.  Since an official legal document is not in place, the district can technically state it “does not have a tenant.”  The administration illustrated its fondness for semantics when it recently told the Tribune Review it had “no substitute costs” because its substitutes were hired through a contractor.  Given the administration’s cost savings calculation is contingent on $1M of “Potential Lease Revenue,” it’s clear that there is indeed a tenant for Peebles.

Saving the best for last: “Mr. Thomas donated his services free of charge to complete this work.”  So, Mr. Thomas, a consultant from a construction management firm, “donated all of his services” to complete the Phase 2 report and recommended closing a school with $0 repairs instead of one with $14 million in repairs.  Nothing more needs to be said.

SaveNASchools firmly believes that NO SCHOOL in the district should be closed and its mission is to illustrate

(1) the district’s position is incorrect, and

(2) the district’s process is incorrect.

1.  SaveNASchools believes the district DOES NOT have the ability to close a school without compromising its successful elementary education model. If Peebles is closed, the detrimental impact to the remaining buildings will include;

* an increase in class size (e.g. Ingomar would‘ve seen an increase of 7 students per class in 4th grade and 4 students per class in 5th grade)

* an increase in sections (e.g. Ingomar, Franklin, Hosack, and Bradford Woods would operate as four-round instead of three-round schools)

* use of non-classrooms as classrooms (e.g. large group instruction spaces at both Ingomar and Marshall would be used as spare classrooms; the space at Marshall requires accordion walls and the space at Ingomar has no windows)

2. SaveNASchools believes the district’s process for closing a school DOES NOT adhere to a best practices model. The California Department of Education, the National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities, and the Council of Educational Facility Planners International encourages the following best practices for considering a school closure;

* form a district advisory committee before decisions are made about a school closure that includes a cross section of community members (the school board has not addressed a petition with 1,000+ signatures requesting a community task force)

* evaluate the condition, operating costs, transportation costs, and value of each building, which includes getting appraisals (the district has not performed a cost analysis per building nor has it gotten appraisals)

* ensure the process of gathering facts is as credible, transparent, and non-political as possible (the district has two reports-the first report recommends closing a school with $14 million in repairs and the second report recommends closing a school with $0 in repairs; the second report is from a consultant that was involved in a lawsuit with the district where a judge ruled he acted in “bad faith” and cost NA taxpayers over half a million dollars)

The district’s failure to adhere to a best practices model for closing a school DOES NOT mean that a school other than Peebles should be closed. It merely highlights the district’s failure to involve taxpayers, lack of due diligence and inconsistencies regarding the process for closing a school.

  • The Administration’s recommendation to close an elementary school is based on 33 spare “classrooms” that exist at the elementary level. The 33 “classrooms” identified by the Administration include faculty lounges, learning support rooms, music rooms, GOAL rooms, and large group instructional spaces. These spaces were NOT designed to be used as classrooms. The district does NOT have enough excess capacity at the elementary school level to close a building unless buildings are operated close to their gross capacities requiring non-classrooms be used for direct instruction.
  • The Administration has focused on the fact that the small elementary schools have a gross capacity of 550 students. We’ve discussed in our earlier posts that buildings are not designed to run at gross capacity. For example, Franklin has a current enrollment of 515 students and the only spare classroom that exists is a faculty lounge. Franklin cannot reasonably accommodate 35 additional students.
  • The Administration has focused on buildings that are operating below capacity (Hosack) instead of buildings that are operating above capacity (Franklin). If students are moved from buildings operating above capacity to those that are operating below capacity, through minimal redistricting, the district can balance enrollment and operate all of the buildings efficiently.

If enrollment at the small elementary schools is considered in reference to the 450 student target capacity established by Pennsylvania Department of Education guidelines, then each school would be operating at approximately 89% of its target capacity if all buildings remain open. This is calculated by taking the balanced enrollment totals for each building from the Administration’s November 14th presentation  and dividing by the 450 student target capacity established by the state: [Click here to see the balanced enrollment slide.]

BWE = 400/450 = 89%

FES = 403/450 = 89.5%

HES = 408/450 = 91%

IES = 401/450 = 89%

PES = 397/450 = 88%


Under this scenario, Hosack would pick up 75 additional students and excess capacity issues would be resolved through limited redistricting.
All regular classrooms would be in use and spare classrooms would be available (instead of non-classrooms) for overflow or bubbles in enrollment.
With respect to the two larger elementary schools, enrollment at McKnight would be 782 students (instead of 837 if Peebles was closed) and enrollment at Marshall would be 774 (instead of 852 if Peebles was closed). These are more realistic capacities for our children.


We maintain that balancing enrollment, through limited redistricting, is the solution to the excess capacity issues that exist at the elementary school level. The district does NOT have enough excess capacity to close a building without compromising the education of our elementary school students.

“If we close an elementary school, change will be felt throughout the system,” said Dr. Brian Miller, Assistant Superintendent for K-12 education. “If you remove a small school from our system, the entire system will be affected.” [PG Article, October 25, 2012.]

The information included on the Administration’s November 28th slides (detailed in recent posts) provides the basis for the following conclusions:

  1. Under the new model, the remaining buildings will see an increase in class size across several grade levels (especially grades 3-5).
  2. Under the new model, the remaining buildings will see an increase in sections across several grade levels (the only way to hold class sizes below district guidelines is by regularly operating spare classrooms as regular classrooms).
  3. Under the new model, the use of spare classrooms as regular classrooms makes the remaining buildings dependent on non-classrooms as spare classrooms.
  4. The use of non-classrooms as spare classrooms would displace programs integral to the elementary curriculum that are currently operating in those spaces (e.g. learning support, music, GOAL).
  5. Increase in class size and increase in sections means the remaining buildings will be operating above their Pennsylvania Department of Education target capacity and dangerously close to gross capacity.

We believe that the 5 points listed above compromise the district’s ability to deliver the same level of excellence in education under the new model that it does now.

Further, the Administration’s slides illustrate that the new model cannot reasonably accommodate an increase in student enrollment. If the district grows, it could face spending more money than it saved from closing a building.