Pittsburgh Public Schools Superintendent Mark Roosevelt last night proposed reopening the Milliones Middle School building in the Hill District as a new home for the Rogers Middle School for the Creative and Performing Arts.
Mr. Roosevelt said the larger Milliones building would enable the popular magnet school to expand enrollment from 316, the figure as of Sept. 28, to as many as 500. He said Rogers would occupy the Milliones building in fall 2008 after $6 million to $8 million in renovations, including renovation of the auditorium and construction of art and dance studios.
"This is a program that is right now turning kids down because of space issues," he said at the school board meeting.
Mr. Roosevelt said Milliones' central location would be well-suited for a magnet program, which draws students from across the district.
Milliones was one of 22 elementary and middle schools closed in June under Mr. Roosevelt's reorganization plan. Black school board members have called for the building to be reopened, if only so its pool and gymnasium could be used by neighboring schools with lesser athletic facilities.
Mr. Roosevelt's reorganization plan initially had called for Rogers to move from Garfield to the Baxter building in Homewood, so it could expand there. But he dropped the idea after parents called for still larger quarters, such as the closed Prospect building in Mount Washington.
Besides accommodating Rogers, Mr. Roosevelt said, the 150,000-square-foot Milliones building could house early-childhood classes and what he called a "Hill District community arts collaborative."
His proposal to reopen Milliones comes amid black board members' continuing assaults on his reorganization plan, including Mark Brentley Sr.'s assertion at last month's legislative meeting that the district provided inferior services to black students and didn't care.
At that meeting, Mr. Brentley made a motion to reopen Milliones' pool and gym. It failed by a 6-2 vote.
Board members greeted the Rogers proposal with concern last night.
"Eight million dollars is a lot of money," Theresa Colaizzi said of the renovations.
Thomas Sumpter said the proposal must be submitted to a committee the board formed this year to study reuse of the Milliones building.
"Probably the downside is the lack of good parking," Jean Fink said.
Randall Taylor said the district would want to make maximum use of the large building, without expanding Rogers' enrollment to the point of diluting the arts program.
Mr. Roosevelt said he wants to have an architect working on the plan by January.
Joe Smydo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1548.