Langley closed as a high school in June but has new life as a K-8 building when school resumes this week. The building was constructed in 1923 and had a major addition in 1977; it has a capacity of 1,260 students.
By Eleanor Chute Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Although Pittsburgh Langley High School closed in June, the Langley Mustangs are about to rise again, this time as a new K-8 school in an old building.
Pittsburgh Langley K-8 in Sheraden is keeping the maroon-and-white, the senior murals and even the athletic uniforms, but the staff and student body will be new.
Principal Rodney Necciai said the school is working toward one goal: "Our idea is to serve the West End and be a first-choice school for the children of the West End."
With classes set to begin in Pittsburgh Public Schools this week, staff members are in the final stages of getting ready. Ninth-graders start on Wednesday, those in grades 1-12 on Thursday and kindergartners on Sept. 5.
At the end of the school year, Pittsburgh closed seven schools, including Langley High, but this fall opens a new elementary in the Langley building.
It also moved the McNaugher special education program to the Oliver building, which was closed as a high school. Pittsburgh Oliver students were assigned to Pittsburgh Perry. Both schools are on the North Side.
Mr. Necciai hand-picked a staff of 65, including 43 teachers and two social workers. The professionals were chosen after interviewing 183 applicants.
"There's an awful lot of people who are invested in this endeavor," the principal said. "It's not just people who landed here who needed a place to land."
First-grade teacher Dawna Neuhart, who moved from Pittsburgh Phillips K-5 on the South Side to Langley, said she was attracted by the chance to open a new building.
"You get to be the one to create the climate and culture of the school," she said. "We're all open and all willing. I don't know of anybody who doesn't want to be here."
The principal said about half the staff members could have stayed in their previous schools.
He was looking for teachers and social workers who could develop the best culture to help students, including being able to work with other teachers and share ideas.
They also need to be able to reach out to the community and parents. Mr. Necciai gives parents his cell phone number. The professional staff comes from 18 schools across the city.
"We want to gather together everybody's best thinking," Mr. Necciai said.
He said the average seniority of the school's teachers is about 12 years.
About 700 students are expected to start classes on Thursday. Class sizes are expected to run about 25 to 28, Mr. Necciai said. Most students will walk to school.
Many students were reassigned to Langley as a result of the closing of Pittsburgh Schaeffer K-8 and Stevens K-8. Some will have already visited the school when they registered or at an open house scheduled for Tuesday.
Mr. Necciai, who last school year was principal at Phillips, accepted the Langley job without seeing the building.
But when he did, he was impressed at the resources available at the building, which was constructed in 1923 and received an addition in 1977.
The district lists the building as having a capacity of 1,260, so there is space to close off some rooms, helping to divide age groups.
There also is enough space to give the three autistic support classrooms each a sensory room as well.
One courtyard with tall, shady trees provides a space for recess. Another has a greenhouse that is destined to become part of the academic program.
Given the building used to be a high school, it has a large auditorium, two gyms and a swimming pool -- facilities not so common in elementary schools.
Physical changes to the building over the summer have been modest. About $12,000 was spent to replace sections of carpet. In one area drinking fountains were lowered. Books, desks and materials were shipped in from other schools.
"The transformation itself really was more about moving things in and out," said Mr. Necciai.