Posts Tagged ‘closing’

North Allegheny Patch
Vote to Close Peebles Elementary Delayed Indefinitely

North Allegheny School Board President Maureen Grosheider made the announcement Wednesday evening.

Suggesting that the proposed closure of Peebles Elementary School had become a distraction to the board and the community, North Allegheny School Board President Maureen Grosheider announced at Wednesday’s meeting that a vote on the issue would be delayed indefinitely.

To read more, click here.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

North Allegheny will not vote on closing Peebles Elementary

The North Allegheny School Board will not vote next week on an administration proposal to close Peebles Elementary School for the 2014-15 school year.

School board president Maureen Grosheider said Wednesday that board members would like to wait until there is new enrollment data, and they won’t have that until late August.

To read more, click here.

North Allegheny’s Peebles site-closing plan still debated

January 24, 2013
By Sandy Trozzo, Post Gazette

North Allegheny administrators see closing Peebles Elementary School as inevitable in a district with stable enrollment and excess classrooms in an era when public schools are facing serious financial difficulties.

On the other hand, members of a citizens group fighting the proposed closure see a future with overcrowded schools and higher class sizes. And they dispute the administration’s enrollment projections.

In the middle of both sides is the school board — a majority of whom live in McCandless where Peebles is located.

The school board will hold a public hearing Wednesday on the proposed school closing, which would occur next year. The board cannot vote on the recommendation until at least three months after the hearing.

The background

The process began two years ago when Architectural Innovations, which was contracted to perform a comprehensive analysis of all 12 buildings, recommended closing Bradford Woods Elementary, contending that the school needs $14 million in renovations, and Peebles. The report said there would be sufficient capacity in the remaining five schools to house all elementary students.

But administrators and board members were skeptical of the firm’s numbers and recommendations, and commissioned a second study — this one by Thomas and Williamson, a construction management firm that previously did work for North Allegheny, but was involved with a lawsuit that led to a $500,000 judgment against the district.

Thomas and Williamson reduced the estimate of repairs at Bradford Woods to $8.3 million, and recommended closing Peebles instead. Administrators agreed, making the recommendation in November.

This isn’t the first time a consultant recommended closing Peebles, the district’s oldest elementary school. It also was recommended in 1997.

“When Espe closed, the recommendation was to close Espe and Peebles, and, 15 years later, nothing has changed,” superintendent Raymond Gualtieri said. “We still have the same number of excess classrooms.”

But Laurel Schreiber and Tara Fisher, leaders in the Save NA Schools group, said that 1997 recommendation also included expanding McKnight Elementary to hold 1,500 students, and possibly adding onto Hosack Elementary. Both schools are also in McCandless.

“It is not a parallel set of facts,” Mrs. Fisher said.

Enrollment and capacity

Projecting enrollment is not an exact science.

This year, enrollment was up 89 students districtwide and the 8,215 students enrolled on the third day exceeded the projections in last year’s demographics and feasibility study.

Mr. Gualtieri said enrollment is stable, noting that 314 new students enrolled last year, while 317 withdrew. “We had a wash of move-ins and move-outs,” he said. “That’s been happening for years.”

But Mrs. Fisher said the administration has underestimated enrollment for the past 13 years. The citizens group took the district’s five-year enrollment projections in 1999, 2006, 2007 and 2008, and compared them with third-day enrollment figures. Each time, enrollment was higher than the district had projected five years earlier.

Administrators chose Peebles over Bradford Woods for closure in part because the most growth is expected in the northern half of the district as those municipalities, particularly Franklin Park and Marshall, expand with public utilities.

Brian Miller, assistant superintendent for K-12 education, said that, for every 10 babies born in Franklin Park, 12 kindergarteners show up in school. In other areas, 10 babies are born, but only eight children are still living in the district by kindergarten.

The citizens group contends that enrollment also will increase in McCandless as the older homes of empty-nesters are sold to young families.

Because enrollment is stable, the district has excess classrooms at the elementary level, administrators say. Closing a small elementary school such as Peebles will allow them to better distribute students and lower class sizes.

Save NA Schools disputes that on its website, outlining a scenario of what the district would look like if Peebles had closed this year. The number of sections would have increased, and class size would hover around the maximum in nearly every section, Mrs. Fisher said.

Fiscal realities

Closing a small elementary school and redistributing students allows the district “the ability to be more operationally efficient,” Mr. Miller said.

And that is important as the state cuts education subsidies and increases unfunded mandates, charter school tuition eats a large portion of the district’s budget and retirement costs increase by double-digit percentages every year.

North Allegheny is facing a $5.7 million deficit for 2013-14. During the past two years, the district reduced 90 positions through an early retirement incentive program, initiated activity fees for students, increased parking fees, accepted advertising on its website and in facilities, and is seeking sponsors for naming rights.

But the district needs to continue to search for ways to maximize efficiency, administrators say. The district has estimated an annual savings of $850,000 by closing Peebles. More savings will be realized if the facility can be rented, they say.

“In challenging fiscal times, that’s the way that you need to run an organization. That’s the way a family needs to run their household. That’s the way a private enterprise needs to run their company,” Mr. Miller said.

Mrs. Fisher said the savings does not justify the turmoil in which closing Peebles will leave students.

“Where is the priority for the district? This is a proposal that will save less than 1 percent of the district’s operating budget, but the impact will affect every student and every teacher at the elementary school level,” she said.

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

First Published January 24, 2013 5:14 am

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/local/neighborhoods-north/north-alleghenys-peebles-site-closing-plan-still-debated-671773/

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Where they stand: North Allegheny officials, parents

January 24, 2013

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Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

A public hearing on a proposal to close Peebles Elementary School will be held at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the Carson Middle School Auditorium, 600 Hillvue Lane, McCandless. Here are the positions of school officials and the parents’ organization:

Administration

• School buildings are under-utilized. There are the same number of spare classrooms as in 1997 when a community task force recommended closing Espe and Peebles schools.

• Closing a small elementary school will better equalize class sizes throughout the remaining schools.

• Projections show the district’s enrollment remaining stable.

• On the Web: www.northallegheny.org.

Save NA Schools

• If Peebles is closed, the remaining six schools will see an increase in class size and an increase in sections, which eliminates the spare classrooms and makes it harder to manage class sizes. Seventeen classes would have 29 students or more.

• Other school districts have lower class sizes, especially in third grade. North Allegheny’s guidelines call for 30 students or fewer in grades three through five. The average third-grade class is 21 students in Pine-Richland, 21 in Mt. Lebanon and 24 in Hampton.

• The administration has underestimated projections for 13 years. Board members have questioned projections both from the administration and in the Phase 1 report.

• On the Web: www.savenaschools.com

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.

Today’s Post Gazette- Pittsburgh North section includes several letters to the editor that further detail the issues surrounding the recommendation to close an elementary school: [To read the letters, click here:]

  • Over-crowding threatened if NA closes Peebles
    • “Why does North Allegheny know better than the Pennsylvania Department of Education? The state recommends a class size of 25 in the elementary grades.”
  • Savings ‘insignificant’ against impact on students
    • “Now the NA school board is considering closing a highly ranked elementary school, which will lead to significant redistricting.”
  • NA not following best practices
    • “This process includes forming a committee of a cross-section of residents to examine the condition of every school, per-pupil operating costs, transportation costs associated with each facility and a property appraisal of each school.”
  • Expenses first, close schools later
    • “Closing Peebles Elementary School, whose students flourish among the highest in the North Allegheny district, should be a last resort after all other possible solutions have been exhausted. This has not yet occurred to the satisfaction of the community.”

Today we conclude our series on class size and capacity issues at the remaining buildings by focusing on Marshall and Bradford Woods Elementary.

Please note that we will not be reviewing Hosack or Franklin.  Hosack already has class sizes of 30+ students (and thus will not see an increase in class size).  Franklin is already operating above its target capacity with a current enrollment of 515 students (and thus will not see an increase in capacity). For those interested, here for the slides on Hosack and Franklin.

That said, what would Marshall and Bradford Woods Elementary have looked like if Peebles was closed this year?  These slides are from the Administration’s November 28th presentation to the school board:  MES and BWE.

Marshall Elementary
  • Marshall would pick up 138 new students if Peebles was closed.
  • Its operating capacity would go from 79% to 95%.
  • 5th grade would have had to operate 5 sections (instead of 4) and use a spare room (which would have displaced programs operating in that room).
  • 4th grade would have had to operate 5 sections (instead of 4) and use a spare room (which would have displaced programs operating in that room).
  • 3rd 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).
  • 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 had to operate 7 sections (instead of 6) and use a spare room (which would have displaced programs operating in that room).
  • Kindergarten would have had to operate 5 sections (instead of 4).
  • With the 6 extra sections added under the new model, Marshall would have had to use its 4th Centrium (large group instruction space) and GOAL room as classrooms.  Only one spare classroom would have remained and it is used for the YMCA program.
  • If current enrollment goes up, Marshall would have to use its YMCA room as a classroom.  No other spare classrooms exist.  Marshall would face class sizes of 25+ for grades K-2 and 30+ for grades 3-5 if there is growth in the Marshall area (e.g. Venango Trails development with 400+ proposed single family homes.) 
Bradford Woods Elementary
  • Bradford Woods would pick up 36 new students if Peebles was closed.
  • 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 have 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 have 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 have been 24, 24, 24).
  • 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 classroom)
  • 1st grade would have remained the same.
  • Kindergarten would have increased by an average of 1.5 students 
  • If current enrollment goes up, Bradford Woods would have to use its GOAL room and Life Skills room as classrooms.
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…”

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

As presented to North Allegheny School District Board of School Directors on November 28, 2012.

[click here] Community Report 1

Based on current enrollment, closing a building would require the remaining buildings to operate at capacities that limit the district’s ability to manage class size and make the system dependent on spare classrooms.  Under the new model, spare classrooms would be used as regular classrooms and “other spares,” such as faculty lounges and open group instructional spaces, would become potential classrooms.  The rooms identified as “other spares” under the new model are not as conducive to learning as a regular classroom setting and displace programs integral to the elementary curriculum.  This compromises the district’s ability to deliver excellence in education and equity across all schools.

The decision to close a school is contingent on a decline in student enrollment and relies on projections made in the Phase 2 Demographics and Feasibility Study (Phase 2 report) and projections made by the administration.  The administration has a 13-year history of forecasting enrollment several hundred students below actual enrollment.  The enrollment projections in the Phase 2 report are below the forecasts provided by the administration, the data used for population projections does not tie to governmental records, and there is a mathematical error in the demographic study that has a significant impact on conclusions related to future growth.  Thus, both sources the district is relying on with respect to a decline in enrollment raise concern with respect to the accuracy of such projections.  If current enrollment goes up, the district cannot reasonably accommodate additional students and faces spending more money than it saved from closing a building.

This report summarizes our concerns, observations, and evaluations in regards to the district’s ability to reasonably accommodate all elementary students in the remaining buildings without compromising the district’s successful elementary education model and curriculum.

  1. Introduction
  2. Building utilization under a new elementary education model
  3. Reliance on declining enrollment projections
  4. Additional Concerns
  5. Conclusion
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