Hazelwood's Burgwin School sold, to become Propel charter

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On the third attempt, the board of Pittsburgh Public Schools tonight agreed to sell the closed Burgwin School to the Hazelwood Initiative for use as a Propel charter school and for community programs.

The board voted to sell the school, which was closed in 2006, for its asking price of $475,000.

The sale marks the end of the dream of some school board members to reopen the school as a district school. District officials estimated that would cost $3.7 million, counting staffing and one-time capital costs. Staffing costs would be ongoing.

There will still be a cost to the district for a charter school because the school district is required to pay a fee set by the state for each district resident who enrolls.

Board member Terry Kennedy, who had campaigned to re-open the school, said she came to realize that Propel was going to open a school in Hazelwood whether the district sold it Burgwin or not. She said that would hinder the district's ability to open its own school.

Ms. Kennedy said the building will be used for more than just a charter school, saying it will be a community asset.

"The community really is behind this," she said.

Board member Regina Holley said she believes the district still could have opened its own school, but there was a lack of school support.

Board member Mark Brentley Sr., who was the only vote against the sale, also argued in favor of re-opening Burgwin as a district school.

Propel's plan calls for the school opening this fall with 200 students in K-4 and growing to K-8. If all 200 come from the city, it would cost the district at least $2.4 million. The district must pay $12,416 for each regular resident and $27,330 for each one in special education.

Propel won the right to open the school this fall on an appeal to the state Charter School Appeal Board.

Last month, Ms. Kennedy asked the board to approve the sale. Board member Bill Isler seconded the motion, but withdrew his second after some board members said the manner in which it was brought up violated the board's procedures.The motion then died without a second.

Her predecessor, Theresa Colaizzi, made a similar motion in November when only board member Bill Isler voted in favor.

Burgwin, which was built in 1937, sits on about 2.7 acres. The building is 62,175 square feet. It has 22 classrooms, a gym, an auditorium and 20 parking spaces. It has four floors, counting the basement.

Education writer Eleanor Chute: echute@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1955.

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