Task force recommends moving Vann School into Milliones building

Elementary would join middle school CAPA in Hill District facility

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Rogers Middle School for the Creative and Performing Arts might not be the only city school moving to the former Milliones Middle School building in the Hill District.

A task force last night recommended that Vann Elementary also be moved, as of next school year, to the Milliones building.

Richard Fellers, Pittsburgh Public Schools' chief operations officer, told the city school board that relocating the schools to Milliones would cost $10 million -- saving $3 million over previous plans.

"That would allow you to cut your capital budget, or do something else," Mr. Fellers said.

While they have a long list of capital projects in mind, board members have been concerned about their escalating costs.

Officials previously said they would spend $8 million to relocate Rogers from its Garfield building and $5 million to build a new gymnasium at Vann's building in the Hill.

Milliones Middle School, with the capacity for more than 900 students, was closed at the end of the 2005-06 school year as part of Superintendent Mark Roosevelt's district reorganization.

The building now is empty.

Milliones' students were reassigned to Vann and two other Hill District schools, Weil Accelerated Learning Academy and Miller African-Centered Academy.

Milliones had sixth, seventh and eighth grades; Vann, Weil and Miller are K-8 schools. Because Vann's gym is small, the school board last year ordered a $5 million upgrade to accommodate middle-grade students.

But Milliones' closing drew criticism from some board members and residents, who called the school an important part of the neighborhood. Even with the upgrade at Vann, Milliones would have superior athletic facilities.

The school board last year established a committee to study re-use of the Milliones building. That group, made up largely of community members, last night recommended moving Vann, with its 275 students, to Milliones.

In the fall, Mr. Roosevelt proposed moving Rogers CAPA to Milliones, saying he wanted to accommodate the growing enrollment. The school now has 315 students.

The administration said it would spend $8 million on a 11/2-story addition, mainly for an auditorium.

Mr. Roosevelt also proposed putting early childhood classrooms and a community arts center in Milliones, which was built in 1927 and renovated in 1976.

Officials last night made no mention of the arts center. But Mr. Fellers said Milliones comfortably could accommodate four early childhood classrooms, Vann's student body and a Rogers enrollment of up to 500.

The early childhood program and the two schools would each have separate entrances. Mr. Fellers said the addition would grow from 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 stories, with the extra story to be for art studios. Under the original plan, the studios would have been created from Milliones' existing classrooms.

The board will vote on relocating Vann and Rogers at its legislative meeting later this month. If approved, the relocations would be effective when the new school year begins in August.

Also last night, a consulting firm recommended sweeping changes in the district's career and technical education program.

"Our most basic conclusion is there simply isn't a system in place," said Susan Sclafani, a former U.S. Education Department official who's now managing director of Chartwell Education Group.

Among other recommendations, she suggested new high schools, or centers, with business and health care themes.

At a meeting tonight, the board will hear more about a possible sci-tech high school.

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


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