Possible changes for East End schools

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In late April, the Pittsburgh Public School District released recommendations by the East Region Advisory Committee for changes to Peabody and Westinghouse high schools. The changes would not go into effect until the 2011-2012 school year and have yet to be approved by the school board.

“In making this recommendation the East Region Advisory Committee paid particular attention to the issues of academic instruction, student support, declining enrollment and facilities utilization,” said Derrick Lopez, assistant superintendent, secondary schools. “After multiple working sessions and community input the committee feels this recommendation best meets the needs of East End families.”

In keeping with the district-wide trend, the committee recommended the expansion of Westinghouse into grades 6-12. Under the new proposal, students from Peabody would be split into Westinghouse and Milliones University Prep­aratory School, with the new feeder pattern being drawn along Negley Avenue.

As with the other school closing proposals made and carried out by the district, these recommendations are the product of declining student population across the district. In the next three years, the East End high schools are projected to lose two-thirds of their student population, leaving Pittsburgh Peabody with a student population of fewer than 200 and Pittsburgh Westinghouse hovering around 100 students.

“We looked at two different criteria. First was the lack of enrollment and second was underutilized facilities,” Lopez said. “The schools that had lower enrollment were Milliones and Westinghouse. The schools that had low achievement were Peabody and Westinghouse.”

With Peabody vacant, the Barack Obama Academy of International Studies 6-12 would be able to utilize the building. An earlier recommendation by the committee in December 2008 identified the Peabody building as the perfect site for the then unnamed international baccalaureate program.

These recommendations correlate with the eventual phasing out of Schenley High School, which is currently located in the Reizenstein building, by 2011. The relocation of the Obama school would then leave Reizenstein empty.

Other changes for Westinghouse include the formation of two single gender academies. The schools would be themed around leadership and social justice and each school will have its own administrative team, faculty and staff.

“It’s going to take about a year to plan the school,” Lopez said. “The board always has the prerogative to reject or modify any proposal made by the superintendent.”

The committee is comprised of parents, community leaders and district staff. The district hosted a series of three forums in January and February to gather community input on the East End schools.

“I thank the committee for the many hours they have dedicated in developing this recommendation,” said Superintendent Mark Roosevelt. “This recommendation will help inform our work as we prepare to present a plan to the board that meets the academic needs of our students and provides for the cost-effective use of district facilities.”

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