Duquesne recovery plan may call for closing elementary school
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The chief recovery officer of the Duquesne City School District said in a letter Tuesday that it is financially unfeasible for the district's current K-6 school to continue to operate next year or for a charter school to operate in the city.
The other two options outlined in the letter from Paul B. Long are to send the K-6 students to nearby districts on a tuition basis with voluntary agreements with the receiving districts or to send the students to nearby districts on a mandate, which would require new state legislation.
Mr. Long's letter was sent to the Post-Gazette and other newspapers as a letter to the editor late Tuesday, about an hour before he presented it to the elected Duquesne school board in an executive session before the regular monthly board meeting.
Some elected board members, including President DeWayne Tucker, were angry about the contents of the letter and the fact that it was first released to the media. Mr. Tucker said he was also upset that Mr. Long did not read his letter to the public at the meeting.
The auditorium was filled with students, parents and grandparents because the board held an academic recognition night for outstanding students.
After the meeting, Mr. Long declined to elaborate on his letter, saying that he published it to make known the four options that he is considering for the district in the recovery plan that he is supposed to have complete by Jan. 31, though his letter said he can ask for an extension.
He would not say if he planned to ask for an extension but said some parts of the plan have to be "fleshed out" before it becomes final and that he may provide a plan with more than one contingency.
He declined to elaborate further saying he "had to catch a bus."
Mr. Tucker and school director Burton Comensky said they believe Mr. Long's plan is to close the Duquesne Elementary School and send the students to other districts. In recent months, community members and some school directors have said they would like to see an elementary school remain open in Duquesne.
Previous state legislation created in 2007 allowed for high school students from Duquesne to be sent to West Mifflin Area and East Allegheny school districts on a tuition basis. That same law was used this year to also send students in grades 7 and 8 to those districts.
But there is currently no legislation to allow for the transfer of the elementary students.
Mr. Long's letter said the school board will be asked to approve the recovery plan that he submits. It would also require approval by state Education Secretary Ron Tomalis before taking effect in the 2013-14 school year.
If the board rejects the plan, the matter will go to Common Pleas Court, where a receiver will be appointed to carry out the plan.
Mr. Tucker and Mr. Comensky said they realize the elected board has little control.
"But you haven't heard the last of this," Mr. Tucker said.
The final of four community forums to discuss the recovery planning process will be held at 2 p.m. Thursday in the auditorium of the Duquesne Education Center.
First Published January 22, 2013 10:14 pm