By Mary Niederberger
Pittsburgh Current Education Writer
As part of its new strategic plan “Imagine PPS,” and to help reduce a $39.4 million budget deficit, the Pittsburgh Public Schools administration has introduced a proposal to close eight schools over the next two years.
The only closing slated for the 2021-22 school year is Woolslair PreK-5, with students reassigned to Arsenal PreK-5. Also in the coming school year, the proposal calls for moving the program for students with disabilities at Oliver Citywide Academy though a new location has not yet been designated.
The plan also calls for creating two regional middle schools — an East End middle school at Minadeo School and a Career Middle School at the former Oliver High School building. In addition, the plan calls for a “Birth to Second Grade” school in Northview Heights.
The schools proposed for closure in 2022-2023 are: Allegheny 6-8, Arsenal 6-8, Fulton Prek-5, Manchester PreK-5, Miller Prek-5, Minadeo Prek-5 and Sterrett 6-8. In addition, the Morrow primary building and the Montessori building will close, but the schools will be moved to different facilities.
The plan was presented at the board’ business and finance committee meeting on Monday Feb. 1. The school board will hold a special legislative session at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday to vote on the process that will allow for public input and planning on the proposal.
Some board members expressed frustration that there are many questions still to be answered about the proposed plan they are being asked to vote on. Several asked what will happen to magnet programs that exist at some of the schools that are being closed and district officials said those details are yet to be worked out.
But Superintendent Anthony Hamlet made it clear that a board vote in favor of the proposal would simply allow the process of public discussion and deliberation to begin. He said unlike other school closing plans in the past, the proposal is not final and that changes may be made in reaction to stakeholders comments and recommendations.
“This is not the ending. This is the beginning of a conversation,” Hamlet said.
The district plans to hold virtual meetings and engage the public on social media starting with a Facebook live with Hamlet. In addition, there will be a public hearing on Feb. 23. Approval of any changes will be voted on at the board’s May legislative meeting.
The decisions about which schools to close were made largely on the physical conditions of buildings.
The changes would reduce the number of empty seats from 17,128 to14,238 and provide a savings of $46.1 million, said Michael McNamara, interim chief operations officer.
According to the proposed plan, Fulton students would move to Sunnyside and possibly other schools and the Fulton building would be closed. Manchester students would move to Allegheny K-5 and the Manchester building would close.
Miller students would be moved to Weil PreK-5 and the Miller building would be closed.
The Montessori PreK-5 students will move to the Sterrett building and the Montessori building would close. The current Montessori building in Friendship is one of the oldest buildings and would require a significant financial investment to make it fully handicap accessible.
The current Minadeo PreK-5 students would be reassigned to Colfax.
The proposed Career Middle School on the Northside would serve students in grades 6-8 from Allegheny, Arsenal, King, Manchester and Morrow.
In addition to closures, students in grades 6-8 at the Brookline school would be transferred to nearby Carmalt, also in Brookline.
The board’s special legislative meeting can be watched on the district’s livestream page.