Posts Tagged ‘elementary school’

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Letter to the editor/North
April 11, 2013 4:57 am
Closing Peebles ‘misguided’

The North Allegheny School District administration presented a revised proposal regarding the closing of Peebles Elementary School at the March 20 school board meeting.

Its revised proposal consisted of:

• Delay closing Peebles Elementary until 2014-2015, which the administration believes will save $850,000 per year.

• Begin work immediately on creating five extra classrooms at McKnight Elementary, which the administration believes will cost $525,000.

However, the revised proposal still does not address the community’s biggest concern — class size.

Based on the district’s records, elementary enrollment has increased over the last several years. Based on information from real estate agents, new housing developments are projected to add more than 850 homes to the district.

On March 20, the administration said it would need to add 10-14 elementary sections next year to keep class size below district guidelines. And, officials said there will only be 14 spare classrooms if the district expands McKnight and closes Peebles.

Thus, all 14 spare classrooms that remain after closing Peebles and expanding McKnight would need to be utilized in order to maintain class sizes below district guidelines. This would leave no spare classrooms for fluctuations in enrollment.

It is time for the administration to stop using man-hours trying to find ways to support its misguided recommendation to close a school.

Keeping all seven elementary schools open is the only solution that ensures a quality education for the children of our community.

FRANK CORONA

McCandless

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Based on the district’s records, elementary enrollment has increased by 31 students since the start of the school year.

Peebles and McKnight Elementary have seen the largest number of new students. Since the start of the year, Peebles Elementary has increased by 9 students and McKnight Elementary has increased by 14 students.

At Peebles, 4 of the 9 new students are in first grade, which illustrates the importance of operating classrooms below class size guidelines at the start of the school year.

Peebles started the year with 3 first grade classes of 23, 23, and 24 students, but those sections are now operating at 25, 25, and 24 students.

The chart below illustrates changes in elementary enrollment at each building for the current year. All information was obtained from the district under the right-to-know law.

Enrollment_Changes_3_

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.

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

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.***