Posts Tagged ‘capacity’

North Allegheny parents plead for all schools to stay open

November 21, 2012 4:55 am
By Sandy Trozzo /

The third-day enrollment in the North Allegheny School District was higher than projections, but administrators say the increase is not enough to drop their proposal to close one of three small elementary schools.

Enrollment on the third day was 8,212 students, with 3,531 of those students in elementary school, according to the annual enrollment and facilities update presented to the school board last Wednesday. Last year, the third-day enrollment was 8,215.

But parents who are fighting the proposed closing of Peebles Elementary School in McCandless say the data shows that the district is still growing, not remaining stagnant, and all seven elementary schools should remain open.

Jamie Karlovits said she called all of the elementary schools and learned that another 35 students had enrolled after the third day of school — 10 each at Peebles and Franklin, eight at McKnight, four at Hosack, two at Bradford Woods and one at Ingomar. No additional students enrolled at Marshall Elementary.

“The elementary schools in McCandless have more new students than the others,” she said.

Peebles, McKnight and Hosack all draw students primarily from McCandless, and McCandless parents contend that enrollment will increase in those schools as older homes are sold to young families.

Amy Lilienthal said eight of 13 homes on her street have changed hands, several of them sold by the original owners.

“These homes have not contributed children to NA in 20 years. Now, there are 15 children,” she said.

“Just because there is not new construction in McCandless does not mean there is not significant growth.”

Reports from the administration and consultant Thomas and Williamson disagree with that.

In 2006, the last time North Allegheny redistricted students, Hosack’s enrollment was 407. It now is 336, said Roger Botti, director of transportation and operations.

“We lost almost 100 students at Hosack. We really need to address that issue,” he said.

The report also tracked enrollment since 1986. Enrollment peaked at 8,461 students in 1997. The lowest recent enrollment was 8,038 in 2006.

Mr. Botti presented redistricting scenarios including closing Bradford Woods, Hosack or Peebles or leaving all seven schools open but moving children to equalize enrollment and class sizes.

Keeping all seven schools open would require moving 264 students, while closing Bradford Woods would require moving 1,031 students. Closing Peebles or Hosack would involve moving 500 to 620 students, depending on how the attendance lines are drawn, he said.

Tara Fisher of McCandless said that closing a school would result in crowding in the remaining buildings.

“It will be more crowded in the classrooms, more crowded in the hallways, more crowded in the bathrooms, more crowded in the cafeteria. In all cases, it means less square footage to deliver these classes,” she said.

Mrs. Fisher and Laurel Schreiber said they pored over the proposed floor plans presented at the Oct. 24 meeting for various redistricting options and found several items of concern, including converting an audio-visual storage room at Bradford Woods to space for communications art support, which is small-group instruction.

“Support services that are critical to the curriculum are going to storage space,” Mrs. Fisher said.

The Ingomar Elementary orchestra would be moved to a mechanical room under the proposed floor plans, while the hearing impaired program, which would move to Hosack if Peebles were closed, would be put into a new space carved from the receiving area, they said.

“If there was ample space, it wouldn’t be this hard. We wouldn’t even be getting cost estimates of putting hearing impaired into a receiving area,” Mrs. Fisher said.

The two women sent a letter to each school board member last week, outlining their concerns.

Board member Thomas Schwartzmier said that directors recently toured Hosack, Peebles, Marshall and Bradford Woods schools.

The “storage closet” is 400 to 500 square feet with a window, he said. “I don’t believe we are putting students in substandard space,” he said.

Robert Gaertner, director of facilities, said that classrooms have to be at least 660 square feet, and any special education resource rooms must be at least 28 square feet per student and have to be in the “ebb and flow” of the school.

“It’s not like we willy-nilly pick spaces,” he said. “We do not believe that we have done anything detrimental.”

Several factors complicate the process, including that both Bradford Woods and Marshall elementary schools need to be renovated. Estimates for Bradford Woods renovations range from $8 million to $10 million.

Another factor is the concern about dwindling state funding and increasing pension costs. Superintendent Raymond Gualtieri said closing a small elementary school would save $500,000 to $1.5 million.

But Mrs. Fisher contended that the proposal to close a building “should not be tied to the district’s budgeting issues.”

A third factor is that class sizes have increased this year as the district did not replace many retiring teachers. Parents from Hosack Elementary, in particular, have complained about class sizes of 31 students in some third- through fifth-grade classes.

Mrs. Karlovits said the average third grade at Hampton is 24.3 students, while an average third grade in Pine-Richland is 21 students.

“That is a six-to-nine-child difference. How can we compete with those districts” she asked.

Board member Beth Ludwig noted that any of the redistricting plans would add sections.

“I don’t know how we are going to provide those scenarios. I don’t know how we are going to do it with the budget that we have,” she said.

“I don’t know how Hampton and some of these districts are getting away with the class sizes they have, but they are losing or will lose something educationally that we are holding onto for dear life.”

Sandy Trozzo, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com

First Published November 21, 2012 4:55 am

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1) If an elementary school is closed, the remaining buildings will have to accommodate more classes than what they were designed for; this will have a direct impact on classroom space and programs integral to the elementary curriculum.

a. The remaining buildings will have to use spare rooms as regular classrooms. For example, buildings designed to run three sections of 1st and 2nd grade would be required to run four sections under the new model (e.g. Bradford Woods, Franklin, Hosack, and Ingomar). As a result, each building will lose two of its spare rooms.
b. The loss of spare rooms means the administration has identified “other spares” to be used as classrooms. For example, at Marshall Elementary, the 4th Centrium, GOAL room, and YMCA room have been identified as spare classrooms. At McKnight elementary, the ESL room, Student Assistance Room, and faculty lounge have been identified as spare classrooms. In other buildings, spare classrooms include learning support rooms, orchestra rooms, and faculty lounges.

2) If all intended classrooms are filled to district guidelines, there are 3,960 seats under the new model and there will be limited ability to keep class sizes below district guidelines based on current enrollment.

a. The 3,960 seat capacity assumes all small elementary buildings are loaded with 540 students (e.g. Bradford Woods, Franklin, Hosack, and Ingomar). To put this in perspective, Franklin has a current enrollment of 515 students and they are currently using a faculty lounge as a classroom. If the district lowers its target to 510 students per building, they will only have 3,720 seats, which is close to current enrollment.
b. The district’s current elementary enrollment is 3,548 students, which represents 90 percent of the new capacity (3,548 current enrollment/3,960 new capacity). This will make it difficult to keep class sizes below district guidelines. For example, there are currently 638 students in third grade and there are 22 third grade classes under the new model. Assuming a perfectly equal distribution of students across buildings, there would be 29 students in every third grade class (638 students/22 sections of third grade). Without a perfectly equal distribution across buildings, several third grade classes could exceed the district guideline of 30 students per classroom.

3) If current enrollment goes up, the district would not have the ability to reasonably accommodate extra students and would face spending more money than it saved from closing a school.

a. To date, the financial benefit of closing a school has been estimated at 1% or less of the district’s annual operating budget. The district’s annual budget is approximately $126 million and cost savings are estimated at $500,000-$1.5 million.
b. The district’s ability to close a school is based on a decline in student enrollment. Given Allegheny County is experiencing positive migration, and there are new housing starts in the townships of Marshall, McCandless, and Franklin, the decision to close a school based on a model that can’t accommodate future growth could be fiscally irresponsible because the district would encounter future costs to accommodate additional students.

4) Based on the 1997 Bozzomo model- a model that uses a target capacity of 450 students (instead of 540) for each small elementary school- the remaining buildings would operate at 89% of target capacity if all buildings remain open and the district “balances enrollment” by moving students from overcrowded buildings into those that are less crowded.

a. The new model “creates capacity” by adding 90 students to each small elementary school without adding any classrooms or additional space. The new elementary education model increases the target capacity of the small elementary buildings from 450 to 540 students by using spare classrooms as regular classrooms and accepting North Allegheny School District (NASD) guidelines of 30 students in grades 3 through 5 (instead of 25 students).’
b. If enrollment at the elementary schools is considered in reference to a 450 target capacity (instead of 540), then the schools would be operating at 89% of target capacity if all buildings remain open. This is calculated by taking the balanced enrollment totals for each building (based on Mr. Botti’s November 14th presentation) and dividing by a 450 target capacity: BWE = 400/450 = 88.89%, FES = 403/450 = 89.56%, HES = 408/450 = 90.67%, IES = 401/450 = 89.11%, PES = 397/450 = 88.22%.
c. If the district keeps all elementary buildings open, only 264 students would be redistricted (instead of the estimated 503-1031 students if a building is closed).

5) Over the past few months, elementary parents have suggested other options for addressing the district’s projected budget deficits. These ideas include outsourcing transportation, advertising on the district’s website, and reducing the “other” expense items listed in the district’s budget.

***Members of the community are encouraged to attend the school board meeting on November 28th at 7pm in the Carson Middle School Auditorium and become part of the ongoing discussions surrounding this recommendation.***

November 14, 2012 11:33 pm

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By Sandy Trozzo

The third-day enrollment in the North Allegheny School District is higher than projections, but not high enough that the district should drop the proposal to close a small elementary school, board members learned tonight.

Enrollment on the third day was 8,212 students with 3,531 of those students in elementary school.

The annual Enrollment and Facilities Update also tracked enrollment since 1986. Enrollment peaked at 8,461 students in 1997.

Roger Botti, director of transportation and operations, also presented four redistricting scenarios — closing Bradford Woods, Hosack or Peebles elementary schools — and leaving all seven schools open, but moving children to equalize enrollment and class sizes. Keeping all seven schools open would require moving 264 students, while closing Bradford Woods would require moving 1,031 students.

Parents continued to plead with the board to keep all schools open and to lower elementary class sizes, some of which have reached 31 students.

“These students get one shot at a solid elementary education,” said Tara Fisher of McCandless. “We in the North Allegheny community need to give them our best. We cannot offer them the best if we close an elementary school.”

First Published November 14, 2012 11:33 pm

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/local/neighborhoods-north/north-allegheny-elementary-closures-still-an-option-662076/#ixzz2CGTMgKUO

If previous meetings are any indication, it’s likely to be another packed house when the North Allegheny School Board  meets Wednesday, Nov. 14 at 7:00 p.m.,  200 Hillvue Lane.

That direction came after the board listened to to a nearly one-hour demographics and feasibility study presentation by Dr. Brian Miller, assistant superintendent of K-12 Education, and impassioned pleas by several parents.

“If we want to remain a leader in education, in southwestern Pennsylvania, what we should not be doing at a time when Allegheny county is seeing young, educated adults moving into the this area is closing an elementary school instead of preparing for and competing for growth in this district,” said Tara Fisher, a North Allegheny parent. “As a North Allegheny graduate I think we are better than this and I encourage you, despite what the administration tells you about this proposal being possible, that you consider – is this the direction we want to head?”

A consultant has recommended closing Peebles Elementary. Dr. Miller indicated to the board that such a decision would not increase class size nor impact the quality of programs now offered at North Allegheny elementary schools.  But after questions by several board members, Grosheider instructed the administration to consider redistricting plans under four different scenarios:

Parents also asked again for the formation of a community task force to take part in any decisions regarding school closings.Grosheider indicated the board would respond to that request at Wednesday’s meeting.The board is grappling with a projected $8-million dollar deficit and little prospect of increased funding from Harrisburg.

For more information on parent’s efforts to form a community task force, click www.saveNAschools.com
Based upon the 1997 Bozzomo model [Table 3.5: Option #1 ‐ Base Option ‐ PDE Unit Capacities] – a model North Allegheny has used with great success and assumes no more than 25 students in a classroom with a target capacity of 82% for each elementary school building- the elementary schools are working at expected capacities– and any over or under utilization can be easily fixed by limited redistricting.  In fact, the  authors of the Phase 2 report stated that this model “has stood the test of time, albeit with a slight adjustment in the Franklin enrollment zone in 2006.”
If the population of the smaller schools are considered in reference to this capacity, then the schools are working– or, in fact, exceeding their target capacity.
BWE-  88%
HES- 74%
IES -90%
PES- 83%
FES- 100+%
MCK- 100+%
MES-100+ %The latest recommendation by the administration moves to a new elementary school model based on 30 students in a classroom for grades 3 through 5 with a target capacity of 90% for each elementary school building instead of 82%.  This means loading elementary school buildings to 540 students instead of 450 students, which “creates” additional capacity and leads to perceived “excess” capacity in some buildings.

Further, the building capacity numbers that the administration is targeting are a best guess scenario and do not take into account building specifics.  The elementary buildings across the district are not one-size fits all- and important programs will be lost to the reconfiguration of elementary schools.  The presentation Dr. Miller presented to the North Allegheny School board on October 24th assumed target building capacities of 540 for every elementary school except McKnight and Marshall.  This is inconsistent with both the Phase 1 and Phase 2 studies, which listed individual target capacities for each elementary school building. 

 
For example, in the Phase 2 report, NASD target capacity for BWE was listed at 600 students, FES was listed as 595 students and PES was listed at 520 students.  But in the presentation made by Dr. Brian Miller at the October 24th board meeting, excess capacity was calculated using 540 for all three buildings.  Changing the denominator in these calculations has a huge impact on the excess capacity percentages that are being presented to the community and can be very misleading.

At the last NA School board meeting, community members were urged to post questions to the NA Community blog to have their answers regarding school closing recommendations, the Phase 2 Feasibility report, capacity studies, cost savings, redistricting, etc answered in a public forum by the administration.

Here is the link.
NA Community Blog

You’ll notice the last comments were from the end of September.  Please let the administration know that you have questions, that you are concerned, and that you want answers!

A HUGE thank you to everyone that attended the school board meeting last evening. We had a great turnout and representation from 6 of the 7 elementary schools. This movement is about being opposed to closing ANY elementary school in the district because of the impact it would have on the remaining six buildings. Dr. Miller confirmed last night that, no matter which school is closed, it will be felt across the district.

It was extremely encouraging to see several board members step forward and ask the administration for more specific information on how this proposal would impact our elementary school children. We also saw, for the first time, financial estimates tied to this recommendation. The cost of maintaining a small elementary school is below $300k/year (utilities and maintenance) and we heard that it would only save the district about 5 staff members (a principal, secretary, nurse, and a couple specials teachers).Given the district’s operating budget is roughly $126 million per year, if the cost savings from closing a small elementary school are $1.26 million or less, this proposal is best described as “one that will have direct impact on teachers and students across all elementary schools while saving the district 1 percent or less in its annual budget.” This is a VERY powerful point moving forward.Despite that we did not receive a decision on the community task force last evening, and that we were told we won’t receive a decision until after the November board meeting, everyone should feel very encouraged about the information and discussions that took place at the board meeting last night and our position moving forward. Thank you again for your support and lets keep the momentum rolling!