Two more high schools could be eliminated from the Pittsburgh Public School District if the board approves a proposal released by the district Aug. 4. Under the new realignment plan for the 2012-2013 school year, Oliver High School and Langley High School would be among seven schools eliminated through consolidation.
“We are committed to using taxpayer dollars efficiently. This proposed reduction to our physical footprint is just the beginning. We remain committed to becoming a system of quality schools that promotes high student achievement in the most equitable and cost-effective manner,” said Superintendent Linda Lane. “Addressing the District’s underutilized classrooms will provide us our largest savings in the long run. The way to achieve these savings is through a combination of school closings and by addressing our under-enrolled classes.”
If approved the plan would see the closure of Fort Pitt PreK-5, Murray K-8, Northview PreK-8, Schaeffer K-8, and Stevens K-8, in addition to Oliver and Langley. The earliest the board would vote on the proposal is Nov. 22.
The most recent proposal is part of a larger district strategy to increase class sizes and reduce the number of under-enrolled classes, which is projected to save the district $32 million. Consolidating schools would be one possible method for reducing under-enrolled classes, along with rebalancing feeder patterns, reducing class offerings, and combining classes or grade levels.
“Larger high schools are going to be able to offer more course offerings. So there’s going to be some tradeoffs at smaller high schools,” Lane said. “The smaller a school gets, the fewer resources they can draw.”
If the district uses the method of consolidating schools as outlined in the new plan, 4098 empty seats would be eliminated from the 10,000 currently not being utilized. This would save the district between seven and eight million dollars.
“Our work to build a sustainable district includes more than just school closings. We are looking inside our schools to realign everything from under-enrolled classes to course offerings—from feeder patterns to staff reductions,” Lane said. “We need to change our educational delivery of services in a way that accelerates achievement with fewer resources.”
On the eve of the 2011-2012 school year the district is bracing itself for the impact of its most recent realignment plan that left many parents and community members angry over the closing of Peabody High School and changes to Westinghouse High School. Its newest realignment plan is already garnering negative feedback from the public and will undoubtedly receive more.
“To be honest, I had sort of anticipated this, but I’m really disappointed that they haven’t done some groundwork first. One of things I would’ve liked them to have done is get some information on why students are leaving the district. We know there have been several housing complexes that have closed down, but in Garfield they have actually built more housing,” said Regina Holley, the District 2 school board candidate, referring to the neighborhood where Fort Pitt K-5 is located. “It’s in the board’s hands as to whether or not this will be done. I think people need to understand that years ago you had lots of children living in these neighborhoods. I’m just dumfounded about why we’re not looking at better ways to help students and families so that they want to come to the district. I don’t believe all of this can be blamed on the budget deficit. We have to look at what we’ve done to alienate parents and families.”
Under the new proposal five school buildings will be closed with Langley and Oliver remaining opening to facilitate newly consolidated schools and centers. Langley would hold a new K-8 made up of students from Schaeffer and Stevens as well as the Early Childhood Center from Chartiers. Oliver would serve as a facility for McNaugher special education students.
These changes would reduce some of the district’s capital costs, but could increase transportation costs. The district has not yet determined how many teachers and staff will be lost through the consolidation.
Most of the students from Oliver will most likely go to Perry, whereas the Langley students would go to Brashear. Possible feeder patterns are: Ft. Pitt to Arsenal and Woolslair, Murray to Arlington, and Northview to Martin Luther King.