Pittsburgh Public Schools superintendent proposes closing Woolslair

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Pittsburgh Public Schools superintendent Linda Lane tonight proposed closing the smallest school in the district, Pittsburgh Woolslair K-5 on the Bloomfield-Lawrenceville border, next year.

Ms. Lane made her presentation to the school board as part of the $2.4 million envisioning process.

This fall, Woolslair has 110 students, 65 fewer than the prior fall, a drop of 37 percent. Ms. Lane said the school is twice as expensive to operate as comparable schools. District officials estimate potential annual savings at $650,000 to $950,000 a year.

Ms. Lane would like to transfer the Woolslair students to a school a half mile away, Pittsburgh Arsenal PreK-5, which opened in fall 2006 in a building that also houses a middle school. Arsenal has 287 students in K-5.

Ms. Lane said other school closings would be "appropriate," but called on the board to develop a public process for closings in 2015-26.

Pittsburgh City Council, which does not control the school district, has called for a moratorium on school closings. Asked after the meeting whether this influenced her decision, she said her bigger concern was the impending board turnover and the board's desire for a "more public process" around school closings. Four new board members will be sworn in in early December.

Ms. Lane had expected to release her envisioning recommendations early this month but has delayed the report until next month.

The presentation tonight included a preview of what that might include, including a cuts that could result in savings from $17 million a year to $45 million a year if more aggressive steps were taken.

Some of the ideas include moving some special education students from regional classrooms to neighborhood schools; mowing grass and cleaning classrooms less frequently; reducing school security patrols; reducing the use of contracted services; reducing the number of middle and high school sports; and reducing the number of periods and hence electives in high schools.

Education writer Eleanor Chute: echute@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1955. First Published November 4, 2013 6:07 PM

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