Options to move elementary pupils studied in North Allegheny

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Moving students out of Franklin Elementary School in Franklin Park to relieve crowding will be a challenge, North Allegheny School District administrators have told board members.

Most of the Franklin students live very close to the school, Roger Botti, supervisor of transportation and operations, told the board at its Oct. 23 meeting.

That means that many of them would have to travel farther to school than they do now, he said.

"We are going to have to pull students from relatively close to the school," he said. "We could move all kids from the outlying areas and still not have enough."

The school district is studying two scenarios for a redistricting plan that would affect students in all seven of the district's elementary schools and its three middle schools.

The redistricting is necessary because Franklin Elementary and Ingomar Middle School, also in Franklin Park, are near or above capacity. Other schools, especially Peebles and Hosack elementaries, both in McCandless, are under-used because of their proximity to the district's borders, Mr. Botti said.

Each of the scenarios would move about 400 students.

The first scenario would move each school's attendance area westward. Under that scenario, Franklin's enrollment would decrease from 515 to 397 students. The school has a maximum capacity of 550 students.

This scenario would move students in these areas: Nicholson Road and Settler's Walk would go from Franklin to Ingomar; south of West Ingomar Road, from Ingomar to McKnight; Perrymont, from McKnight to Peebles; Ingomar and Kummer roads, from Peebles to Hosack; and the area north of Ferguson Road, from Hosack to Peebles.

The second scenario would use major roadways, such as McKnight Road and Interstate 79, as boundaries between attendance areas. Franklin's enrollment would decrease to 396 under that plan.

Students in these areas would be affected in the second scenario: south of McAleer Road and east of Interstate 79, from Franklin to Ingomar; Nicholson Road, from Franklin to Marshall; north of Sloop Road, from Ingomar to McKnight; east of Route 19's "Pine Creek Hill," from McKnight to Hosack; Ferguson and Sample roads, from Hosack to Peebles; and west of McKnight Road, from Peebles to McKnight.

McKnight is the only other elementary school that would see an enrollment decrease. At 813 students this year, it is the district's largest elementary school.

A third scenario would be a hybrid of the other two options, Mr. Botti said.

Focus groups will meet in November and December to present the scenarios in detail and hear parent comments.

The meeting schedule is: Wednesday at Ingomar Elementary; next Thursday at Peebles for Peebles and Hosack; Nov. 11 at Ingomar Middle for all middle school parents; Nov. 14 at Franklin; Dec. 3 at McKnight; and Dec. 9 at Marshall for Marshall and Bradford Woods.

All meetings will be held from 7 to 8:30 p.m. and will be specific for that attendance area, said Robert Scherer, assistant superintendent.

The administration will recommend a redistricting plan in January and is asking the board to act on the proposal Feb. 19. The transition process will begin in March.

Superintendent Raymond Gualtieri said some attendance areas will have to be split between middle schools because of the lack of space. "The only way we can do that is if we move the Marshall building to the Ingomar campus and the Ingomar school to Marshall."

Board member Libby Blackburn said that, although Ingomar Middle School is considered to be over capacity, the students do not notice.

"My children have never once said that they thought there were too many kids," she said. "It is not overstuffed. They have not once complained about anything."

Mrs. Blackburn noted that redistricting may be a tough sell to parents.

"Kids are very resilient. I think the parents are not," she said.

Resident Allyson Minton of McCandless asked board members to make sure they know the exact capacity of each building before redistricting.

"Make sure your data is sound, not easy, not convenient, but as sound as it can be," she said. "The people on the ground in these buildings are wonderful people. I believe they have answers to your questions."

Chris Disque, also of McCandless, said the district needs a better system to project enrollment, noting that five-year projections are often too low.

"Obviously, we are not picking up something that is happening to our population. I think we have enough evidence, enough years, to have our actuals exceed our five-year projections ... that we have enough to see what we are missing," he said. "It would behoove us to try to do more than what we have done in that area."

Sandy Trozzo, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com.

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