Posts Tagged ‘community report’

Letter to the Editor, The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, January 15, 2013

In September, North Allegheny School District parents attended school board meetings to express concern over a proposal to close Peebles Elementary. Board President Maureen Grosheider scolded residents, saying only a threat of school closure made parents pay attention.

The board was presented with 1,000-plus signatures asking for a task force to allow residents to help tackle the district‘s $10 million projected 2013-14 deficit prior to closing a school ($850,000 savings). Espe Elementary closed in 1999 — only after the district received input from a 36-member community group.

Parents delivered a 30-page analysis to the board outlining reasons against a school closure. Did Ms. Grosheider listen? During the presentation, she refused to open her copy of the report.

Now Grosheider and her hand-picked New York superintendent, Raymond Gualtieri, have a choice: Do they listen to the hundreds of parents attending meetings? Or does only their opinion matter?

In the face of community opposition, a comprehensive study and evidence of flawed data, Grosheider seems determined to close Peebles. Why? Maybe because her school in Bradford Woods is in need of renovation ($8 million to $14 million) and only a year ago was targeted for closure. It appears that a plan to save her own school by closing another is under way.

John Harrison II

McCandless

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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.

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