More Pittsburgh school closures coming
Share with others:
It's been five years without a major round of school closings in the Pittsburgh Public Schools, but that streak is likely coming to an end.
Declining enrollment and proposed state budget cuts have pushed district officials to begin implementing a plan to determine which schools should close.
Roughly 70 percent of the district's 36,211 classroom seats are filled; administrators would prefer that number be closer to 85 percent.
"The district's budget simply cannot afford to pay for empty seats," superintendent Linda Lane said. "Every dollar we spend on underutilized bricks and mortar is one less dollar we have available to spend towards improving the life prospects of our students."
Derrick Lopez, assistant superintendent for strategic initiatives, presented the criteria for determining which schools to close to board members last week.
The superintendent will present the list of schools recommended for closure as early as August, spokeswoman Ebony Pugh said, though it is unknown exactly how many will be on that list.
To reduce its estimated 11,165 seats of excess capacity -- compared to a total student body of 25,046 in 64 schools -- the district will use a rubric to score each of its schools.
The rubric will assign a score between one and five to four measures -- student achievement, student enrollment, operations costs and facility condition -- giving equal weight to each.
Administrators will use measures of adequate yearly progress to evaluate student achievement, capacity figures to measure enrollment, per student utility and custodial costs to measure operations costs and a 2009 evaluation by Ohio consulting firm DeJong Inc. to assess facility condition.
Additional factors, such as impact on special population groups, racial distribution and transportation costs, also will be considered.
The last major realignment in 2006 involved closing 22 schools through a "right-sizing" plan. That plan, which did not include any high schools, eliminated 10,117 of the 13,701 excess seats.
Five more schools, including two high schools, have been closed since 2007, though several new schools have opened in that time.
This round of school closures is prompted at least in part by proposed state budget cuts, which could create budget deficits to rise from $8.7 million to $23.9 million this year and between $53.6 million and at least $68 million in 2012.
The district has reduced its 2011 capital spending by 75 percent and plans to cut central office spending by as much as 50 percent.
First Published June 13, 2011 12:00 am