Panel to analyze secondary schools in the East End

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As part of its overhaul of high schools, the Pittsburgh Public Schools is forming a new advisory committee to recommend a "portfolio" of secondary schools for the East End.

Derrick Lopez, assistant superintendent for secondary schools, sent an e-mail Wednesday inviting at least 15 employees and civic leaders to serve on the committee.

Mr. Lopez's e-mail said the group will discuss grade configurations, feeder patterns and the possibility of single-sex "academies," extended hours and year-round schooling. He said another topic will be a timetable for the "transformation and integration of the East End schools."

"Our collective goal is to design a portfolio of schools and attendant support programs for the East End of the city that will best serve our children," he said, adding that "this committee will not be working from a blank slate, but rather we will be building upon the work" of others who have studied the issues in recent months.

Last December, a committee recommended that the district make the Pittsburgh Peabody High School building in East Liberty the permanent home of the district's new International Baccalaureate magnet.

That group made no recommendation about the future of Peabody, a comprehensive neighborhood high school, but another committee was formed to study the issue.

The district also convened meetings in Homewood to discuss the future of Pittsburgh Westinghouse High School and its feeder schools. That led to proposals to turn Westinghouse into a magnet for sports-related studies and to create a Homewood Children's Village -- modeled on the Harlem Children's Zone in New York -- to provide a range of services to struggling families.

In the meantime, the school board hired an Ohio firm, DeJong Inc., to study district buildings and enrollment trends.

The firm recommended closing 15 sites, including Peabody High and its building. The firm recommended keeping the IB magnet in its start-up location, the Reizenstein building in Shadyside. It also suggested sending Peabody High students to Westinghouse, which would be expanded to a school for grades 6 through 12 and also take in middle-grade students from two K-8 schools in Homewood.

The district has said it will use DeJong's report only as a starting point for possible school changes district-wide.

Mr. Lopez's e-mail said the first meeting of the new East End committee will be at 4 p.m. Thursday at district offices in Oakland. District spokeswoman Ebony Pugh said the meetings are not open to the public but residents can offer input by e-mailing Mr. Lopez at dlopez1@pghboe.net.

"The work will be exciting and at times laborious, but it will be a labor of love and a rich opportunity to design a system of schools to meet the needs of our children," Mr. Lopez said.


Joe Smydo can be reached at jsmydo@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1548.


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