Task force to study school closings in Pittsburgh Public Schools District

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Pittsburgh City Council Wednesday took the first step in forming a 23-member task force to come up with alternatives to closing public schools in the city.

Council gave preliminary approval to a resolution sponsored by Councilman Theresa Kail-Smith to create the task force. The resolution also calls on the Pittsburgh Board of Education to place a moratorium on shuttering schools for the 2013-14 school year.

The task force will include four council members, two school board members, one member of the teachers union, two members of educational advocacy groups, members of the Pittsburgh Public Schools administration, and students and community members. It will compile a report by next September.

Pittsburgh Public Schools faces a large deficit and could face state receivership within a few years. A proposal drafted by consultants to remake the district and make it financially solvent included school closures.

School board members said at a public hearing last week that they believed city council was overstepping its bounds by drafting a resolution.

Ms. Kail-Smith said she hopes the task force represents a new collaboration between city government and the school board. “It’s an opportunity to start a dialogue that should have occurred a long time ago,” she said.

In an emailed statement from PPS spokeswoman Ebony Pugh, the school board said: “The Board of the School District of Pittsburgh is always interested in hearing all voices on such important community issues. We know that we have an important responsibility and take it very seriously.

Moriah Balingit: mbalingit@post-gazette.com.

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