Moon Area elementary plan recommends closing Brooks school

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Moon Area School District administrators Monday recommended closing J.H. Brooks Elementary, renovating J.A. Allard Elementary and expanding R. Hyde Elementary under a $25 million proposed plan. 

The proposal, part of an elementary capital improvement plan to address aging elementary buildings and poorly used space, is expected to save the district about $500,000 annually in operating costs, according to superintendent Curt Baker.

The administration's recommendation does not mean the proposal is a final decision, according to Megan Edwards, district public relations officer. The school board had asked the administration to bring forward a recommendation as part of the board’s decision-making process.

“The board may choose to embrace, amend or reject the administration’s recommendation,” Mrs. Edwards wrote in an email.

A public hearing will be held at 7 p.m. Monday in the high school board room to discuss the recommendation and other options. The final decision by directors is scheduled to be made June 23.

The plan would leave the district with four elementary schools. Under the proposal, Hyde’s square footage would expand by 27,228 to be on par with that of Bon Meade at 67,960.

The estimated $500,000 annual savings does not take into account the district's debt service for the project. More precise figures on how much money would be saved are expected to be discussed at the school board's May 26 workshop session.

In addition to considering the proposal, Mr. Baker suggests directors continue to discuss:

• Grade-level configurations for the district, considering the idea of switching to a K-2 and 3-4 grade structure.

• Implementation of full- or half-day preschool programs, including a parent-pay program, Head Start or other options available through partnership with Robert Morris University or other third parties.

• Examine expansion of the Pace School program with possible inclusion of neighboring school districts. Currently, Pace provides a support classroom at Brooks Elementary for Moon Area elementary students who have autism spectrum disorders. 

• Have appraisers estimate the market value of Brooks Elementary for sale or trade options. Representatives from the adjacent Rhema Christian School on Coraopolis Heights Road have indicated a swap of buildings may help with space concerns the private school is having due to an increase in elementary enrollment.

Sonja Reis, freelance writer:

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