School officials stress fate of Peabody High still undecided

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Pittsburgh Public Schools officials last night said they hadn't decided whether to close Pittsburgh Peabody High School, a school beset with dwindling enrollment and low achievement scores.

The officials' words offered a ray of hope to community members who want to save Peabody High in East Liberty or at least have a voice in deciding what to do with students in Peabody's feeder pattern.

"There's a lot of creative ways we can cut this," said Rick Flanagan, youth development director for Bloomfield-Garfield Corp., which called last night's community meeting in Garfield.

About 50 residents, city officials and representatives of civic groups attended.

A "site selection committee" appointed by district Superintendent Mark Roosevelt last month proposed making the Peabody building the permanent home of the new International Baccalaureate magnet.

The school board still must vote on the recommendation, a point Mr. Flanagan repeatedly emphasized.

The IB school will open in temporary quarters next school year and would, under the site committee's proposal, move to the Peabody building in East Liberty in 2012. The IB school eventually would serve 1,050 students in grades six through 12.

The committee didn't address the fate of Peabody High, fueling concerns that the district will close it and reassign students to another building, perhaps Pittsburgh Westinghouse High School in Homewood.

Officials last night insisted no decision had been made and said they're willing to consider the community's input.

"There has to be engagement of what people would want," Cate Reed, a school district project manager, told the gathering.

At the same time, however, the district put certain limits on the discussion.

Nancy Kodman, the district's executive director of strategic initiatives, said the Peabody building isn't big enough to accommodate Peabody High and the IB school. That raised the specter of at least a change in buildings for Peabody High.

Enrollment has dropped from about 710 students in 2003-04 to the current 489, and the number is projected to drop to 168 by 2014.

Officials said dwindling enrollment has made it difficult to offer a healthy mix of programs, and Ms. Kodman said the school's racial achievement gap and scores on state reading and math tests also are unacceptable.

Mr. Flanagan suggested that impending commercial and residential development in East Liberty, combined with a marketing push by the school district, could boost enrollment.

Bloomfield-Garfield Corp. will hold another community meeting at 6 p.m. Wednesday at its community center in Garfield. Mr. Flanagan said he also wants to take other steps to find out the Peabody community's demands.

"We need to survey parents," he said.

Joe Smydo can be reached at or 412-263-1548.


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