City schools OK contracts for arts program merger

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City school board members last night voted 8-0 to let contracts for the merger of the middle-grade and high school arts programs, though the cost will be about $1 million more than initially projected.

When he proposed the merger last fall, Pittsburgh Public Schools Superintendent Mark Roosevelt estimated renovations to the high school building, Downtown, would cost about $5 million. The board last night let contracts for about $6.1 million.

Member Floyd "Skip" McCrea was absent. Theresa Colaizzi and Jean Fink did not attend the meeting, either, but the two voted by phone.

Chief Operations Officer Paul Gill said the $5 million estimate was developed before the district had a complete handle on the merger's requirements, and he noted the higher cost partly reflected the administration's current proposal to renovate 37,352 square feet instead of the 24,030 square feet originally proposed.

Instead of the 13 classrooms and new cafeteria originally proposed, Mr. Gill said, the base cost of about $5.6 million will include 15 classrooms, the cafeteria and a new computer lab, among other features.

The board also voted to approve about $451,000 for a rooftop basketball court, an extra vice principal's office, an additional conference room and enhancements to the stage, lighting and sound system in a cafeteria. Those items weren't in the initial work plans and were presented last night as options that the board accepted.

Awarded contracts were Gurtner Construction, about $3.1 million; AMB Inc., $466,800; East West Manufacturing and Supply Co., about $1.1 million; and Allegheny City Electric, about $1.5 million.

Next fall, Pittsburgh Rogers 6-8 is scheduled to give up its Garfield building and move into the Pittsburgh High School for the Creative and Performing Arts on Ninth Street.

The board already had spent $2.2 million to purchase three additional floors in the CAPA building. Middle-grade students would be based on the seventh, eighth and ninth floors.

The merger was opposed by some students, parents and teachers, who claimed it was dangerous to tamper with two of the district's highest-performing schools. They also said there wouldn't be enough space for both schools.

But in July, the board approved the merger, clearing the way for the facilities department to seek construction bids. Mr. Gill said the decision to add 13,300 square feet to the project should help to allay concerns about space.

Joe Smydo can be reached at or 412-263-1548.


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