By Mary Niederberger
The agreement that allows middle and high school students in the Wilkinsburg School District to attend the Pittsburgh Public Schools has been so successful over the past five years that both school boards are poised to approve a second 5-year pact.
That announcement was made at the PPS virtual weekly media briefing Friday, which was attended by Pittsburgh district officials and Wilkinsburg school board president Ed Donovan.
“The one word I would say to summarize everything about the partnership is opportunity because that’s what it gave to our kids,” Donovan said.
He explained that his board decided in 2014 that the financially-strapped Wilkinsburg district was failing its secondary students. The middle/high school was one of the lowest-performing schools in Allegheny County in the 2013-14 school year. At the time, students were attending school in a building that had not seen major renovations since 1940 and the small study body had a major impact on the academics and extracurricular activities the district could offer.
In declaring the agreement a success, Donovan cited opportunities it provided to Wilkinsburg students in academics, athletics, honors classes, career and technical education and the ability to receive college scholarship funds from the Pittsburgh Promise.
In the first year of the pact, the 2016-17 school year, Wilkinsburg students in grades 7-12 exclusively attended Pittsburgh Westinghouse 6-12. But in the second year they had access to the Pittsburgh district’s magnet programs.
Donovan said Wilkinsburg students have attended 13 different Pittsburgh schools and two have been valedictorians. In addition, he said, the grade point average of Wilkinsburg students in grades 9-12 has risen from less than a 2.0 to 2.64.
“So it’s working really, really well,” Donovan said.
The initial agreement between the districts expires at the end of this school year. The new pact will extend the arrangement through the 2026-2027 school year.
During the initial five-year period, 760 Wilkinsburg students have attended PPS schools. Currently 216 of the 253 Wilkinsburg students attending PPS are enrolled at Westinghouse.
A parent survey showed, among other things, that 60 percent of the respondents felt that Westinghouse was meeting the academic needs of their child.
More details on the new agreement are expected to be released at the PPS board committee meetings at 5:30 p.m. May 11. Both school boards are expected to approve the new agreement at their June meetings.