North Allegheny Parents Meet to Plot Strategy, Focus Message Against Peebles Elementary Closing

Sunday night's meeting at the Peebles Volunteer Fire Company was designed to rally support for keeping all of the district's seven elementary schools open.

Members of SaveNASchools met Sunday night at the Peebles Volunteer fire company to plan strategy and focus the group's fight against the proposed closing of the Peebles Elementary School.

At the school board meeting on Nov. 28, Superintendent Dr. Raymond Gualtieri told the board that closing Peebles would save the district, which is facing a $8-million deficit , $850,000 a year. He also argued that enrollment continues to decline and excess capacity exists at the elementary level.

Gualtieri suggested that the board hold a public hearing on the proposed closure in January, and schedule a vote in April. 

The administration has outlined its reasoning's in detail on the North Allegheny School District web site. You can read more of the administration’s statement here .

SaveNASchools has countered with its own mission statement:

Mission of SaveNASchools

SaveNASchools is a group that advocates keeping all 7 of the district’s elementary schools open based on the following 5 points…

1.  We believe that the district’s elementary buildings should not operate above Pennsylvania Department of Education capacity guidelines.  The district does not have the ability to close an elementary school unless it accepts higher capacities than those established by the state. 

2.  We believe that operating the remaining elementary buildings at capacities that depend on spare classrooms and increase class size will compromise the district’s ability to deliver excellence in education.  The new model will be dependent on spare classrooms the very first day, which have been identified as faculty lounges, learning support rooms and music rooms.  The remaining buildings will experience an increase in class size with respect to grades 3-5, except for Hosack (which already has classes of 30+ students) and Franklin (which is currently operating above capacity).

3.  We believe that 3rd grade should have a class size guideline of 25 students instead of 30 (similar to other districts).  The new model is based on 30 students for each 3rd grade class and operating six schools instead of seven does not provide the district with enough capacity to accept 25 students per class now or in the future.  

4.  We believe that the decision to close a school could ultimately cost the district more money than it would save because the new model cannot reasonably accommodate future growth.  The 5-year enrollment projections prepared by the Administration have consistently understated actual enrollment for 13 years. 

5.  We believe that the decision to close a school should be based upon solid, empirical evidence that such decision is in the best interest of the district as a whole.  The report that recommended closing Peebles Elementary used population data that does not tie to the 2010 U.S. Census and included a mathematical error that concludes there will be a decline in McCandless, when, in fact, the population is projected to remain stable.

On November 28th, the Administration recommended closing Peebles Elementary and estimated that the district would save $850,000 per year (contingent on a $1million/year lease).  That same night, it requested $856,000 to purchase new buses for next year.

SaveNASchools recommends deferring the purchase of new buses for one year and appointing a community task force to provide additional thoughts and ideas for addressing the district’s projected deficits before moving forward with a process as drastic and irreversible as closing a school.

For more information on parent's efforts to form a community task force about the proposed school closing, click www.saveNAschools.com

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