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On Halloween, Mark Roosevelt, Superintendent of Pittsburgh Public Schools, announced that he's attempting again to close Schenley High School and move its students out of Oakland into existing Middle School buildings in East Liberty and the Hill District
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11-01-07 Roosevelt plan that includes closing Schenley

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PostPosted: Sun Nov 11, 2007 8:06 am    Post subject: 11-01-07 Roosevelt plan that includes closing Schenley Reply with quote

City wants to open 4 new schools
Roosevelt outlines district's plan that includes closing Schenley

Thursday, November 01, 2007
By Joe Smydo, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Pittsburgh Public Schools Superintendent Mark Roosevelt yesterday proposed more restructuring of the district, saying he wanted to close Pittsburgh Schenley High School at the end of the school year and open four new schools configured for grades six through 12.

Two of the four, an International Baccalaureate school in Shadyside and a university-affiliated school in the Hill District, would open next fall. In fall 2009, the district would open a science and technology school in Oakland and combine the middle-grade and high school arts schools, Downtown.

The four would be the first district schools for grades six through 12, an unusual configuration that officials called exciting.

Mr. Roosevelt did not propose names for the new schools.

A public hearing on Schenley's closing will be held at 6 p.m. Nov. 27 at school district headquarters in Oakland. The school board must vote on the closing.

Yesterday's announcement represented the second round of school changes -- the first involving high schools -- since Mr. Roosevelt joined the district two years ago. After 2005-06, the district closed 22 elementary and middle schools, expanded 10 K-5 schools to K-8 and opened eight accelerated learning academies.

Mr. Roosevelt said he concluded after two years of study that the district could not afford the $64 million needed to renovate 91-year-old Schenley.

As a precaution against asbestos contamination, Mr. Roosevelt said, the district last summer spent $750,000 to patch 10,000 worn areas of ceilings and walls. He said the district continues to monitor air quality and still considers the building safe for students and staff.

"It's a building we'd love to save, but at what cost?" Mr. Roosevelt said, noting the district already is strained by debt service on capital projects.

Mr. Roosevelt proposed honoring Schenley's tradition of scholarship by creating the "nation's first comprehensive urban IB program" in the former Reizenstein Middle School building in Shadyside.

He'd assign to the new school more than half of Schenley's students -- the 500 enrolled in its international studies/IB magnet and about 60 English-language learners. He'd round out the new school with all 500 students from Pittsburgh Frick 6-8, an international studies magnet in Oakland that previously expressed interest in starting an IB program.

Swiss-based IB promotes an international perspective.

After its first year, the school would accept applications for new students.

About 400 Schenley students -- those who attend because it's their neighborhood school -- would be assigned to the university-affiliated school in the former Milliones Middle School building in the Hill District.

Also assigned there would be 180 middle-grade students from Pittsburgh Vann PreK-8 and Pittsburgh Miller PreK-8, both in the Hill District. Those students also would have the option of attending Pittsburgh Weil Accelerated Learning Academy in the Hill District.

The district is trying to arrange a partnership with the University of Pittsburgh to create a college preparatory program and education laboratory at the new school. The district called the university-affiliated school its "centerpiece of high school reform" and said it would be open to students districtwide, as long as space permits.

With the creation of the university 6-12 school, Vann would close. Miller would revert to a PreK-5 school and plans for a new, bigger gymnasium would be scrapped. Vann's students in prekindergarten through fifth grade would be assigned to Miller or Weil.

Vann and Miller were among the 10 schools that became K-8 buildings after 2005-06. Vann initially was scheduled to move to Milliones in 2008 or 2009 to take advantage of the former middle school's larger gym.

The smallest group of Schenley students -- about 175 in the robotics technology magnet -- will be assigned a wing at Pittsburgh Peabody High School in East Liberty. Frick's building would become the home for the science and technology school, originally billed as a high school with a 2008 opening.

Mr. Roosevelt said he wants to push back the opening to 2009 because of the Schenley problem. The sci-tech school's structure is under development.

Along with Vann, the school board earlier this year voted to move Pittsburgh Rogers 6-8, an arts magnet, into the Milliones building. While Vann needed a bigger gym, Rogers needed more space for growing enrollment.

Mr. Roosevelt said he instead wants to move Rogers to three additional floors that recently became available in the Downtown building that already houses the Pittsburgh High School for the Creative and Performing Arts. He proposed paying $2.2 million for the space, a move that would give the district virtually all of the nine-floor building in the city's Cultural District.

In all, Mr. Roosevelt said, the moves announced yesterday would cost $49.3 million, $45.5 million less than the district would spend renovating Schenley, housing its population in Reizenstein for the overhaul, building a gym for Miller and installing Rogers at Milliones.

The announcements drew frustration and reservations from some parents.

Schenley supporters began circulating e-mails saying they wouldn't send their children to Reizenstein, in part because Schenley's location in vibrant Oakland was crucial to the international studies program.

"I'm very disappointed with the idea of moving the IB program out of Oakland. ... I think it's misguided," said Highland Park resident Jill Weiss, who has a daughter at Schenley.

Henry Schmitt, president of the Rogers parent group, said he'd like more information about how middle-grade and high school arts students will share space and resources.

"I would say it's an interesting idea," he said.

Joe Smydo can be reached at [email protected] or 412-263-1548.
First published on November 1, 2007 at 12:00 am
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