Some North Allegheny parents object to move of students

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Several parents of children from Franklin Elementary School complained to school directors about a redistricting plan that would move their children out of the overcrowded school on Rochester Road in Franklin Park.

The district is considering three scenarios to move students into other schools. The ripple effect will move more students to Peebles and Hosack in McCandless, which are underutilized.

At the board's workshop Nov. 13, Saadia Khan Gosalia presented a petition from 60 homeowners in the Spring Ridge plan, which is 0.7 miles from Franklin Elementary and 2 miles from Ingomar Middle School.

"I am appalled and angry," she said. "We moved to Spring Ridge knowing that our kids would go to Franklin Elementary School and Ingomar Middle School. We feel we are being penalized for poor planning by the school board."

Roger Botti, director of operations and transportation, said during a redistricting presentation in October that most of the large housing plans in Franklin Park are very close to the school. Just moving the children who live farther from the school will not create enough space, he said.

Dr. Gosalia, a physician, said the Spring Ridge plan pays $750,000 a year in taxes. "We are more financially invested in the district and the schools, and we deserve to have our kids in the schools."

She suggested that the district "just build on to the schools" if Franklin needs more room.

Carrie Matvey of Franklin Park said although her neighborhood is not being moved under any of the scenarios, some of her son's friends would be moved.

"We are a great school. We run very well," she said.

She added that, if the district goes forward with redistricting, it should "grandfather" the fifth-graders. "Please, let these kids have their last year at the schools they have been in."

Parent Cara Tripoli asked that if redistricting is necessary, the board choose the option that moves the fewest children.

Mrs. Matvey and Mrs. Tripoli are co-presidents of the Franklin Elementary Parent-Faculty Association.

Maggie Pople, president of the Marshall Elementary PFA, said she didn't understand why so many students would be moved to Marshall, which is another growing area.

"You are not taking into account all the new families," she said.

Children do not only come from single-family homes, she added. "We have 60 kids coming from townhouses and apartments."

Jeremy Avigad of Marshall noted that, in all three redistricting scenarios, 61 students would be moved into Marshall Elementary, which is already running at 80 percent capacity.

"I would like to see more effort into getting projections right the first time," he said. "Otherwise, I expect to see frantic reorganization and redistricting every few years."

Mr. Avigad also expressed concern about class sizes at Marshall this year.

"They are crowded. Students in the back cannot hear the teachers," he said.

He added that there are 28 students per classroom in fifth grade at Marshall, compared with 25 at Hosack and Bradford Woods.

"The guidelines are not uniformly applied," he said. "Marshall seems to be systematically larger."

North Allegheny administrators are holding building-specific meetings at each elementary school to explain redistricting options. The next meetings are at 7 p.m. Dec. 3 at McKnight and Dec. 9 at Marshall for Marshall and Bradford Woods.

The administration will recommend a plan in January and is asking the board to act on the proposal Feb. 19. The transition process will begin in March.

The district last redistricted in 2006. That plan also moved students from Franklin Elementary.

Sandy Trozzo, freelance writer:

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