Leaders of the Save NA Schools citizens group said the decision by North Allegheny school board officers not to schedule a vote on closing Peebles Elementary School in McCandless was the right one.
Board President Maureen Grosheider announced at the Aug. 28 board meeting that she and Vice President Dan Hubert decided that all elementary schools should remain open for the foreseeable future.
That decision was made after what she said were extensive discussions with Superintendent Raymond Gualtieri and other administrators.
The district will, however, redistrict the attendance areas of all elementary schools because Franklin Elementary in Franklin Park is nearing capacity. The redistricting will take effect in 2014-15.
Elementary enrollment increased by more than 50 students across all seven elementary schools, Mrs. Grosheider said.
Although withdrawals are not yet known, she said she and Mr. Hubert recommended "an approach of watchful waiting -- not closing any elementary building now, but simply watching enrollment trends over the next several years."
Her remarks were greeted by applause by residents in the audience, most of whom have attended all board meetings since the administration recommended closing Peebles about a year ago.
"Clearly, the North Allegheny School District is not a district in decline," said Laurel Schreiber, one of the leaders of Save NA schools. "The increase in elementary enrollment this year largely came from McCandless, which confirms the variety of housing options in this area makes it the gateway to NA."
Her co-leader, Tara Fisher, said, "The board's decision to keep all seven elementary schools open is the right one. North Allegheny is a premier district, with outstanding academics, arts and athletics. If we continue to offer outstanding curriculum and programs, people will continue to flock to NA."
Mrs. Fisher said the district should separate elementary and secondary enrollment when evaluating trends.
"Elementary enrollment has increased over the last several years, while K-12 enrollment has remained fairly stable," she said. "The increase of more than 50 elementary students at the start of the 2013-14 school year means elementary enrollment is the highest it's been in over a decade."
The administration had recommended closing Peebles because of stagnant enrollment and to ease budgetary concerns. It was estimated that closing Peebles would save $850,000 a year -- more if the building could be rented.
North Allegheny will continue to face "continued financial pressure" over the next few years, but any restructuring to ease that burden should fall on the board that will take office in December, Mrs. Grosheider said.
Mrs. Fisher, Scott Russell and incumbent Ralph Pagone -- all of whom oppose closing Peebles -- won both party nominations in the May primary, virtually assuring their victory in November. Mr. Hubert and incumbent Thomas Schwartzmier each won nominations, too, but on only one ticket.
Also, a special election will be held in November to fill the remaining two years of Beth Ludwig's term. Mrs. Ludwig resigned in February, citing the acrimonious nature of the debate on closing Peebles.
In other action, the board approved several student trips, including allowing about 275 students in the marching band, wind ensemble, symphonic band and jazz ensembles at the high schools to participate in the Kentucky Derby "Pegasus" Parade in Louisville, Ky., and the Music in the Parks National Adjudication in Cincinnati. The trip will be May 1-4.
The bands will leave Louisville before the Derby, Mr. Gualtieri said.
The board also approved an agreement with MSA Sports Network to broadcast selected athletic events over the Internet for the next three years at a cost of $2,975 per year.
Mr. Gualtieri announced that the district will need to hire a German teacher in the next few months. He added that there is a shortage of teachers of German, Latin and Mandarin Chinese.
Sandy Trozzo, freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org