Parkway West cites falling enrollment, will close alternative school

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Directors at Parkway West Career and Technology Center, which serves 11 school districts, are shuttering the alternative high school, which first opened its doors in 1989 to 82 at-risk students.

Regular skilled trade and technology courses at Parkway unrelated to the alternative high school will continue to be offered at the North Fayette school as they have been since 1968.

The vote to close the Alternative Center for Education -- due to low overall enrollment and increasing costs -- came Jan. 8, just two months after the decision was tabled due to concerns of the member schools and public outcry. Very few members of the public attended the meeting and no public comments were made on the issue.

Populated by students who do not always fit the typical mold for public education, the alternative program will continue through the end of this school year.

ACE currently provides alternative education for 41 students -- 21 are expected to graduate this year, said Alfred McGivern, ACE principal. After the vote, Mr. McGivern urged directors to focus on "getting those kids to graduation."

The 20 remaining students would have graduated if able to continue at ACE, he said.

In addition to displacing students, five teachers, a counselor and one administrator will be furloughed. The board will discuss contractual issues involved with those furloughs in the coming months.

"Bumping rights" owed to ACE employees through their collective bargaining agreement could affect the jobs of the teachers at Parkway, solicitor Ira Weiss said.

Darby Copeland, acting executive director at Parkway, said his main concern is the continuity of education for the remaining students.

"Our biggest concern is the kids and getting them where they need to go," he said.

These districts currently send students to Parkway: Carlynton, Chartiers Valley, Cornell, Montour, Moon Area, Mt. Lebanon, Quaker Valley, South Fayette, Sto-Rox, Upper St. Clair and West Allegheny.

Keystone Oaks withdrew from ACE several years ago when it formed its own in-house alternative school. It continues to send trade students to Parkway. Montour also offers an after-school program called Montour Alternative Program. Many districts also provide cyber schools as an option.

Since November, representatives from the member schools have discussed the issue and ultimately all separately voted to withdraw support after this year

"The school cannot exist without members," said Montour's Joyce Snell, who serves as Parkway's board president. "Obviously we're concerned; this isn't easy to do."

In March, a similar action was taken by the board of A.W. Beattie Career Center in McCandless. Directors there voted to close its alternative school because of declining enrollment after three decades of operation.


Sonja Reis, freelance writer:


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