The North Allegheny School District Board of Directors will conduct a public hearing on the question of whether or not to permanently close Peebles Elementary School, at 7 tonight in the Carson Middle School Auditorium.
And it is likely to be a long night.
According to the community group Save NA schools, which has been fighting for months against the closing of any elementary school in the district, at least 106 people have signed up to speak.
When the board advertised the hearing earlier this month, it stated that "any interested member of the public may address the board one time for a period not in excess of five minutes."
If every speaker uses his or her allotted time, the hearing could last well more than eight hours.
It's not clear if the board is willing to let the hearing continue for an extended period of time or if it is willing to continue it at a later date. School Board President Maureen Grosheider was unavailable for comment.
At the school board meeting Nov. 28, Superintendent Dr. Raymond Gualtieri told the board that closing Peebles would save $850,000 annually for the district, which is facing a $5.7 million deficit. He also argued that the district's enrollment continues to decline and that its elementary schools are not full and have room for Peebles students.
Save NA Schools argues that the district's enrollment projections are inaccurate and that closing any elementary school will ultimately lead to "larger class sizes and will compromise the district's ability to deliver excellence in education."
The group repeatedly has asked the board to form a community task force which would provide additional ideas for addressing the district's projected budget deficits prior to a decision on closing an elementary school. It's not clear what, if any, power the task force would hold and who would be part of it. The board has not addressed that request.
To read more on the administration's arguments for closing Peebles Elementary, click here.
To read the counter-arguments from Save NA schools, click here.
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