Posts Tagged ‘Phase 2 Feasibility Study’

The recommendation to close an school in the North Allegheny School District relies on two assumptions:

1. Enrollment will decline overall

2. Class size guidelines (not maximums) will be 25 students for grades K-2 and 30 students for grades 3-5

The district’s ability to close a small elementary school is contingent on a decline in student enrollment, which relies on projections prepared by the administration, as well as those contained in the Phase 2 report.
The 5-year enrollment projections prepared by the administration have consistently understated actual enrollment for the past 13 years.

Enrollment Graph 1

Consider the following:
  • In November 1999, the 2004 enrollment was forecast at 7856;
    2004 actual was 8193 (+337) [11/24/99 Post Gazette]
  • In February 2006, the 2010 enrollment was forecast at 7814;
    2010 actual was 8126 (+312) [2/2/06 Post Gazette]
  • In October 2007, the 2012/13 enrollment was forecast at 7774;
    2012 actual is 8212 (+438) [10/7/07 Post Gazette]
  • In September 2008, the 2013/14 enrollment was forecast at 7835;
    at the November 24, 2012 board meeting it was revised to 8201 (+366)
    [9/24/08 school board minutes]
  • In September 2009, the 2014/15 enrollment was forecast at 7926;
    at November 24, 2012 board meeting it was revised to 8241 (+315)
    [ 9/23/09 school board minutes]
  • In September 2010, using the trend projection formulas that the District has implemented over the past decade, it was anticipated that enrollment will show a slight increase over the next five years. Enrollment in 2010 was 8126. [9/22/10 school board minutes]

This review of the 5-year forecasts in the years 1999, 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2009 demonstrates that there is consistent evidence of the administration underestimating enrollment by an average of 353 students. Given this trend, it is reasonable to assume that 2018/2019 enrollment would be 8585 and not the projected 8101 students noted in the most recent 5-year forecast. If one-third of this increase is attributable to elementary school students, the district will exceed the target capacity of 3,720 students established by the administration.

The graph below breaks elementary enrollment out of the total enrollment forecast and compares actual to projected enrollment for 2011/12 and 2012/13.

Elementary Enrollment

The enrollment projections contained in the Phase 2 report are even lower than the forecasts prepared by the administration.
If it is acknowledged that the administration has consistently underestimated school enrollment since 1999, it is of considerable concern that the elementary enrollment forecasts set forth in the Phase 2 report are even lower than the administration’s elementary enrollment forecasts for the period 2014-2021.

For example, the Phase 2 report projected an elementary enrollment of 3278 students for 2015/2016; this was the number used in the administration’s October 24 presentation.  However, in the November 14 presentation, the administration provided its own forecast of 3401 students for 2015/2016.
Given that the school board minutes over the past 13 years reflect that the board has been concerned with the administration underestimating enrollment, it is of great concern that forecasts contained in the Phase 2 report fall even further below the administration’s projections for the years 2014-2021. If these forecasts are acceptable, it would appear that North Allegheny is preparing for a significant and unprecedented decline in its student population despite evidence of new housing starts and continued migration into the district.

Letter to the Editor, Pittsburgh Tribune- Review, January17, 2013

Wrong NA fix

I am a father of four children who attend North Allegheny School District. We chose NA because of its reputation as providing a quality education.

I am a proponent of reducing costs within the district and originally supported the concept of closing an elementary school. I read the news story “Community group questions North Allegheny enrollment projections” (Dec. 6 and Afterward, I read the Save NA Schools group‘s report mentioned in the story and realized that I made a mistake in trusting the district‘s administrators to make a sound decision.

First, closing a small elementary school (one of 12 total schools) in a district with a $127 million budget should save more like $5 million a year than $850,000 a year. Second, it is clear that at a minimum, the district should re-evaluate its data and analyze this plan again. Finally, what is really driving the deficit problem? Teachers‘ pensions.

The administration needs to address that problem with something other than cannibalizing schools, reassigning hundreds of students to different buildings and overcrowding classrooms for a pittance that will not solve the deficit problem.

Scott E. Russell



At the school board meeting last night, information came forward that the consultant who recommended closing Peebles Elementary was responsible for renovating several of the district’s elementary schools in the late 90’s and his work resulted in a lawsuit that cost the district half a million dollars. Below are the facts and information surrounding this situation:

  • In December 2011, a Phase 2 Demographics and Feasibility Study was commissioned by the district.  It hired construction management firm, Thomas and Williamson, to do the work. The December 5, 2012 Tiger News stated, “The Board was not comfortable with the demographic information or cost estimates” in the Phase 1 report so the Board “commissioned a second report to be done by a consulting firm with whom they were familiar from past projects.”
  • On August 22, 2012, Mr. Jon Thomas issued his Phase 2 Demographics and Feasibility Study.  Estimated repairs at Bradford Woods were reduced from $14 million to $8 million.  There were no estimated repairs listed for Peebles. Mr. Thomas recommended closing Peebles and concluded the population in McCandless would decline.  Mr. Thomas and Mr. Briem were the only experts listed in the report.  BWE Project Budget Summary.
  • In September 2012, a parent noted two issues in the Phase 2 report: (1) that the 2010 data used for population projections does not tie to the 2010 U.S. Census and, (2) that there is a mathematical error in the demographic section of the report which, when corrected, establishes that the population in McCandless will remain stable and not decline. Mr. Thomas acknowledged the mathematical error and that such conclusion be corrected, but could not provide an explanation for why the report understates the 2010 McCandless population by using data that doesn’t tie to the 2010 U.S. Census.  [Phase 2 Population projections] [SPC Municipal Profile 2010]
SaveNASchools believes that the district should NOT be relying on ANY advice from a consultant whose work caused the district legal issues in the past. Reliance on Mr. Thomas’s demographic information, enrollment projections, and other assumptions is NOT in the best interest of the district.
SaveNASchools believes that the district does NOT have the ability to close ANY elementary school without compromising its successful elementary education model.  Our recent posts illustrate that the remaining buildings will see an increase in class size, an increase in sections, and the need to operate non-classrooms as classrooms (displacing programs integral to the elementary curriculum).

A consultant, and the district’s director of transportation and operations insist the district has too much capacity at the elementary school level.


North Allegheny parents hoping to get an answer to their request for a community task force’s involvement in any potential school closing decisions were left wondering again Wednesday night. The meeting, which lasted more that three hours, ended without the issue ever being addressed by the board.

As has been the pattern since the beginning of the school year, the meeting opened with a half dozen parents making impassioned pleas againt a proposed closing of one of the district’s seven elementary schools.

A consultant has recommended closing Peebles Elementary, arguing that district has too few students, and too much elementary classroom space.

At the board’s last meeting, on Oct. 24 , Dr. Brian Miller, assistant superintendent of K-12 Education, presented a nearly one-hour demographics and feasibility study which concluded that the closing of an elementary school would not increase class size, nor impact the quality of programs now offered at North Allegheny elementary schools.

Tara Fisher, a parent, suggested Wednesday night that Miller’s assessment left no room for error.

“Current enrollment, under this proposal means each elementary school will be at 90-percent of capacity,” she said. “We do not have enough excess capacity to close an elementary school building in this district. I encourage you to consider that these students get one shot at a solid elementary education, one shot at third grade, one shot at reading, writing and arithmetic, a foundation that will last them a lifetime, and we, as a North Allegheny community need to give them our best. They deserve the best, and we can not offer them the best if we close an elementary school.”

Consultant Jon Thomas told the board, that even with a slight uptick in the birth rate, he still projects that the elementary school enrollment will continue to decline.

Roger Botti, North Allegheny’s director of transportation and operations, presented four redistricting scenarios and their impact on the entire elementary school class.

  1. Close Peebles or Hosack Elementary schools: Approximately 500 students would change schools.
  2. Close Peebles or Hosack Elementary schools: (different redistricting map) Approximately 650 students would change schools.
  3. Close Bradford Woods Elementary school: Approximately 1,000 students would change schools
  4. Leave all current schools open, and balance enrollment, 264 students would move.

Botti’s last proposal drew a round of applause.

Before the board can vote to close a school, it must hold at least one public hearing, advertised at least 15 days in advance. The board cannot vote for at least three months after the hearing, and so far, board President Maureen Grosheider has indicated the board doesn’t have enough information to make a decision.

Parents, such as Wendy Lukish, said they would continue to fight any school closing, insisting it will lead to overcrowded classrooms.

“How are our teachers going to be able to teach? They’re not going to be good at it and our children are going to suffer,” she said. “My husband is a graduate of North Hills and when we were looking for homes, we had to decide between North Hills or North Allegheny. Not being from Pennsylvania, I didn’t know any different, and my husband said, North Allegheny is an elite school, we need to live in that district. So we moved here. So I implore you to look at these numbers, look at what these schools are going to look like, and that people are going to suffer, as will the future of this district.”

For more information on parent’s efforts to form a community task force about the proposed school closings, click

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!

The board meets for its next public session on Oct. 24.

By Richard Cook,  NA Patch

The North Allegheny School Board tomorrow is expected to release updated demographic data that could potentially impact recommendations to close one of the district’s elementary schools. The board meets Wednesday, Oct. 24 at 7:00 p.m. at its Central Administrative offices Hillvue Lane.

At a meeting with school board President Maureen Grosheider at Hosack Elementary School on Oct. 2, parents expressed concerns about the increasing class sizes at several of the elementary schools, and a consultant’s recommendation to close Peebles Elementary.  “I’m not sure the board is ready to decide about closing a building,” Grosheider said. “We need more information from the administration on how we would redistribute the students. Where are the pockets of growth and non-growth. The administration has to look at this from a practical point of view, before any decisions are made.”

Diane Collery, a parent with a group Save NA Schools, said more than 1,000 signatures had been collected on a petition requesting a district-wide community task force be established to be involved in any decisions regarding potential school closings and student reapportionment.

Tara Fisher, another parent with the Save NA Schools group, said that in addition to an answer from the board about the formation of a task force, she also hoped the board would reveal the following:

  • Administration work regarding the recommendation to close Peeble Elementary
  • Building capacities
  • Enrollment trends
  • Current educational programs “Modeling” criteria for different scenarios (e.g. closing an elementary school)
  • Communications
  • Next steps

School Board member Linda Bishop acknowledged at the Sept. 19 school board meeting that the district is facing an $8 million deficit, and the prime culprits include state-mandated pension contributions. “Our contribution went up $2.3 million this year and will go up another $3 million next year,” she said. “By 2015, unless the state legislature does something, we will be looking at $20 million in pension contributions each year.” Bishop also said the district is limited in its ability to raise taxes because of a state limit that ties tax increases to the cost of living. “We could propose a larger increase, but that would have to go to a voter referendum,” she said. “70-75-percent of the people who live in the North Allegheny district don’t have children in school. Convincing them of the need to raise their property taxes is a difficult proposition.”

There is a North Allegheny school board meeting on Wednesday, October 24th at 7pm at the Central Admin Offices that will cover information relevant to all elementary school parents. At this meeting, the district’s administration will provide an update on the Phase II Demographics and Feasibility Study and document their work

over the past month. More specifically, the administration will review:

1) Building capacities,
2) Enrollment trends, and the
3) Current educational program.

The administration will also share their “modeling” criteria for different scenarios (e.g. closing an elementary school), communication, and next steps.

Elementary school parents are encouraged to attend so that they can hear first-hand the details of all proposals being considered by the administration and the school board.

Parents demand formation of a community task force to tackle both issues

By Richard Cook, NA Patch
September 26, 2012

For the second time this month, the North Allegheny School board got an earful from elementary school parents who say they are frustrated by increasing class sizes and fearful the board will close at least one elementary school.

At the most recent meeting Sept. 19, more than a half-dozen parents waited nearly two hours to address the board at the end of its regular agenda.

“My daughter goes to Hosack Elementary. Her class has 32 students,” Bill Lungren told the board.

“I had a chance to visit her classroom the other week, and I noticed there was hardly any room to move around,” Lungren said. “The desks were practically stacked on top of each other. Were these rooms designed by the original architect to handle this many students?”

School board member Linda Bishop said the district has increased class sizes to help balance its current budget.

“We’re now at the point where some very difficult decisions are going to have to be made, and one of those already this year was to float some of the class sizes,” Bishop said. “We didn’t furlough any teachers. We simply didn’t replace some teachers who retired.”

Kevin Mahler, who said he was speaking on behalf of a group of concerned parents, said he believes class size will inevitably impact the quality of education for the children of North Allegheny.

“As the cliché says, perception is reality, and there is an overwhelming perception that people like smaller class sizes, especially parents when they are choosing a school district,” he said.

Mahler said he wants the district to clearly define a policy and set limits for class sizes, particularly in the elementary schools.

“North Hills has a clear maximum (class size) of 23 students in K-2 and 25 students in grades 3-5. We often get compared in my neighborhood because you can live across the street from each other and be in either North Allegheny or North Hills (districts). That’s not a selling point anymore.”

Amanda Hartle, communications coordinator for the North Hills School Districtclarified that in grades K-1, that district’s maximum class size is 20 students per class with a single teacher, or 23 students with a teacher and a teaching assistant. In grades 2-3, the maximum is 23 students per class with a single teacher, and 25 students with a teacher and teaching assistant.

In grades 4-6 at North Hills, the maximum is 25 students per class with a single teacher, or 27 with a teacher and a teaching assistant.

Many North Allegheny parents also expressed the desire for the board to form a community task force to discuss solutions to larger classes as well as the recommendation last month from consulting firm Thomas & Williamson that Peebles Elementary be closed to equalize elementary enrollment.

“Let’s work to find lasting solutions and not Band-Aids to our budgetary problems,” said Chris Disque, a North Allegheny parent.

Before the board can vote to close a school, it must hold at least one public hearing, advertised at least 15 days in advance. The board cannot vote for at least three months after the hearing.

Board President Maureen Grosheider said the board will have new demographic data at its next meeting that could potentially impact recommendations about any potential school closings. That meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 24.

The recent proposal to close Peebles Elementary school raises concerns due to:
1) The mathematically inaccurate conclusions and questionable projections included in the Phase 2 Demographics & Feasibility Study.
2) The ability of the remaining 6 elementary schools to provide adequate capacity for all elementary school students without an increase in class size.
3) The lack of financial data related to both the cost savings from closing a school and the future costs that would need to be incurred with respect to repairs and renovations at the remaining 6 elementary school buildings.

We do not believe that closing an elementary school is the solution to the district’s budgeting problems.  We believe more time and resources are needed to explore all viable long-term solutions. We have petitioned for a community task force that would involve the entire district in helping brainstorm proposals that will keep North Allegheny the school district of choice based on its excellence in education.

Please help support us in this endeavor by signing the petition for a community task force, attending monthly school board meetings to stay informed, and getting your friends and neighbors to join our Facebook page.

Some of you may have heard that during the last school board meeting, the night before the 2012-2013 school year began, a recommendation was made to close Peebles Elementary School.  The immediate reaction was that it was a Peebles’ problem.  But really, it is a Hosack problem- and to a very large extent, a district-wide problem, too.

Arleen Wheat, assistant superintendent for special education and pupil services, said “We’ve done a lot of those transitions, I feel very self-assured that the students can be assimilated into Hosack. It’s a great school.”

But, as a Hosack parent, that really isn’t the issue.

Hosack currently has an enrollment of 335 students and– according to the Phase Two feasibility study cited by North Allegheny school district– a capacity of 550 students.  The Superintendent stated at the Superintendent’s coffee last week that elementary class size **is ** being increased to a target of 30 students per class– and possibly 33 and 34 in some cases.  With the closing of Peebles Elementary, the plan is to load Hosack to “capacity”.  To increase capacity you need more students in each classroom– and to get more classrooms to accommodate the increased number of students you will need to turn the art room,  the music room,  the orchestra room, into classrooms….

But again, this doesn’t just affect Hosack and Peebles students– school size at Ingomar, McKnight, Franklin and Bradford Woods, and Marshall will grow as well.

At no point in the meeting was it addressed how closing an elementary school will save money.  Last year, Ray Gualtieri, NA Superintendent, stated numerous times that closing a school would only save about $220K per year.  The reality is that by increasing capacity at the other schools,  capital improvements will need to be made at those other schools.  Capital improvements = $$….. which, considering that NA is forecasting an $8M budget shortfall this year doesn’t appear to make very much sense.

Some have suggested that without the closure of one of North Allegheny’s elementary schools a tax increase will be necessary to find the necessary funds.  We do not believe that a choice between appropriate class sizes in community schools and increased taxes is necessary or accurate.  These two options should be last resorts and more appropriate cuts and innovative cost saving measures can be found before these extreme measures.

This is where our presence (and voices) are needed.

Both Dr. Gualtieri and Brian Miller, NA Asst. Superintendent,  will be speaking at Peebles Elementary on Monday, September 10 at 9:00am.  I cannot urge you enough to attend this meeting. Please invite your neighbors.  Please share this email with others.  It is important that we demonstrate that we stand together as a community and that the Superintendent and the School Board are put on notice that we are paying attention.  That, as parents of Hosack students, this recommendation to close Peebles Elementary directly effects our children and our neighborhoods.  The plan to close Peebles is in no way “a done deal”– and we can make a difference.  (Parking may be tight that morning.  It was suggested by a Peebles parent to carpool, park at Memorial Park Church, and walk over to the school.)

If you are not able to attend this meeting please plan to attend the School board meeting at the Central Admin Office on

September 12   (Work Session)

September 19 (Regular Meeting)

And, you are invited to attend the President’s Coffee on Thursday, September 20 at 9:15a which will be held at Bradford Woods Elementary school.

If you are on Facebook I urge you to join the parent-led group Save Peebles Elementary

You may also sign an on-line petition that can be found at

I feel so passionately about Hosack– thank you for reading–


Laurel Schreiber, Hosack Parent