Pittsburgh Public Schools officials have revised a proposal to close 16 schools, but speakers at a public hearing last night said they still haven't found a winning formula.
More than 150 people were signed up for last night's hearing. School board President Bill Isler said that brings the number of people testifying on the proposal to more than 300. He said the district also has received more than 180 e-mails and letters on the matter.Annie O'Neill, Post-Gazette
Onasile Barnett, 8, last night asks the Pittsburgh school board to please consider not closing Miller African Centered Academy in the Hill District. He said his grandparents are from Jamaica and he learns about the island nation at his school. Celeta Hickman, behind left, said she sends her son to the school from Beltzhoover because she knows how important it is to immerse a child in his or her history.
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The crowd included elementary, middle and high school students who talked of their love of their school, teachers and friends. Some wore T-shirts emblazoned with their favorite school's name.
"This school is like a second home," said Khyree Givner, a fourth-grader at Miller African-Centered Academy in the Hill District.
The board is scheduled to vote on a plan on May 26.
Miller parents were grateful the plan now calls for keeping the school open next year and keeping the program intact.
But a new proposal to close Weil, another elementary school in the Hill District, at the end of next school year, move those students to Vann and Madison, and move Miller students to Weil has caused some division in the community, some parents said.
"I don't want anyone else's child to be sacrificed for mine," said Paula Glover, parent of a Miller pupil.
Chartiers Elementary parents were glad their school is no longer on the closing list but instead is slated to receive an addition. But the plan calls for closing the school during construction, and some said they want the school to remain open.
Instead of closing all of South Vocational Technical High School, the plan now calls for keeping some of the programs in the annex, while offering academic classes at Brashear High School.
Sean Melodia, a South Vo-Tech student, said busing from school to school would waste an hour a day and said vocational students should be allowed to continue to go to classes in their building until a new school is ready, just as was done for creative and performing arts high school students.
One change that won support was a proposal to strengthen the career academies at Peabody as well as at Langley and Westinghouse high schools.
Judy Wolfe, a Highland Park resident and parent, said the district needs to invest in programs at Peabody to make it desirable to families.
Parents at some schools that are still on the closing list are fighting for their schools' survival.
Lee Cottrell, a parent at Schaeffer Elementary, urged the board to consider giving the school a science and technology emphasis. If the school closes, he said, a poll of parents showed 45 percent would leave district schools. He said a discount is available at a parochial school, and some are considering forming a charter school.
Wanda Henderson, chair of the education committee of the Pittsburgh NAACP, said she agrees a wise school consolidation is needed, but said the process has been rushed and divisive.
State Rep. Jake Wheatley, D-Hill District, asked the board to put the entire plan on hold for a year to allow for more public discussion.
Eleanor Chute can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1955.