While many school districts are closing schools in their areas, Penn Hills School District is steadily building new education facilities to accommodate its students and their educational needs. After the completion and opening of its state-of-the-art High School building in December 2012, Penn Hills is nearing the completion of its estimated $40 million Penn Hills Elementary School for grades kindergarten through fourth, and which is scheduled to open June 7, 2014-less than 200 days from now, according to the district’s website.
Construction on the elementary school, located on Jefferson Road at the site of the former Dible Elementary School, began in August 2012. The district’s new administration building will also be housed on the same site.
Currently, Penn Hills, which is one of the largest school districts in Allegheny County, serves more than 4,500 students and houses its elementary students, kindergarten through fourth grade, in three schools throughout the district-Forbes, Penn Hebron and Washington Elementary Schools. But as of June, they will all be consolidated into one, leaving all the students under one roof.
“(I am) extremely excited that we are able to offer state-of-the-art facilities to our students,” said Joseph Bailey, president of the Penn Hills School District Board. “This will allow all of our students the same access from across our community.”
Of the district’s more than 4,500 students, 1,265 of them are elementary students-687 Black, 436 White, 109 multiracial, 16 Hispanic, 12 Asian, four American Indian and one Hawaiian/Pacific.
According to Denny Russo, of Russo Construction Services, the manager of this project and the district high school’s construction, the project is on schedule and on budget. He also said the school will offer a number of state-of-the art accommodations, such as classroom smart boards and simulated learning tools, along with security features like state-of-the-art cameras, swipe cards and more.
While many parents are excited about the opening of the elementary school, there are still some who are concerned about all of the students being housed under one roof.
When asked if he had any concerns, Bailey said, “Absolutely none, again there will be no differences, all students are sure to get the best possible education.”
Bailey added that learning centers are the best possible way to save money, while still being able to offer a quality education.
In many school districts, enrollment continues to decline due to numerous factors, especially students leaving public schools and going to private and charter schools.
Charter schools are alternative education systems that receive public funding, but whom operate independently. Bailey said the new school will be competition for others because they will have the tools that many environments cannot offer.
He said, “Penn Hills is the best option when it is given full consideration.”
Superintendent Thomas Washington was contacted, but did not return calls by this publication’s deadline.
(For more information on Penn Hills School District, visit http://www.phsd.k12.pa.us.)
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