The North Allegheny School Board will go ahead with a public hearing next week on the proposed closing of Peebles Elementary School despite the efforts of two board members to postpone it indefinitely.
At the board's meeting Wednesday night, board member Ralph J. Pagone proposed postponing the hearing, saying he believes that parents and taxpayers should have more of a say in the matter. Pagone also said he believes the administration may be relying on incorrect enrollment projections as it considers closing the school.
Another opponent of the closing, Christopher M. Jacobs, seconded Pagone’s motion. The board voted 7-2 against the motion, but not before a somewhat heated exchange between Pagone and fellow board member Beth A. Ludwig. (see video)
After the meeting, Pagone said he wasn't surprised by the outcome of the vote.
"I'm not comfortable with the process where we are right now that we are in a position to have a hearing next week," he said. "I think the process should be longer."
"We should engage the community. You know, this is a public school, paid for by taxpayers' dollars. We are stewards of their money, and it just baffles me that we don't give them a seat at the table with us to help us solve this problem together," he added.
"It is a community problem, it's not a Peebles problem. The decision impacts all six of our remaining elementary schools, should a vote come down to indeed close Peebles."
The community group, Save NA schools, has asked repeatedly for the formation of a community task force that would be involved in any school-closing decision. That request that was made again Wednesday night by Michael Munson, a North Allegheny parent.
"I don't believe there's been a formal acknowledgment, really any comment to that," he said. "I think that's something the district and the parents and the taxpayers deserve. Doing nothing is worse than saying no."
The board did not respond to Munson's comments.
After Wednesday's public hearing, state law requires the school board to wait three months before taking a vote on whether or not to close Peebles Elementary.
Both the district and Save NA schools have used their respective websites to present arguments for and against closing Peebles.
Click here for frequently asked questions and answers from the North Allegheny School District.
Click for Save NA schools' explanation as to why the school should not be closed.
The public hearing is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 30 in the Carson Middle School Auditorium.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the public hearing began at 7:30 p.m.
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