Superintendent outlined plans during recent virtual meeting
by Rob Taylor Jr.
Courier Staff Writer
Manchester Elementary School has been around longer than before the Steelers started winning Super Bowls.
Sterrett Classical Academy, in Point Breeze, is in its 42nd year educating area middle-schoolers.
But those two schools, along with five others in the Pittsburgh Public Schools district, could be closing.
The district announced on Feb. 1 that Superintendent Anthony Hamlet, Ed.D., and members of his leadership team recommended closing seven schools and six buildings, while creating two new schools. It’s part of Dr. Hamlet’s plan to “modernize the district’s footprint to support innovative school design and ensure fiscal sustainability for years to come,” according to a release from district spokeswoman Ebony Pugh.
PITTSBURGH ALLEGHENY school on the North Side could close as part of the PPS district’s new plan.
The other schools proposed to be closed are Allegheny 6-8, Arsenal 6-8, Fulton PreK-5, Miller PreK-5 and Woolslair PreK-5. The new schools proposed to be created are Career Middle School and Birth to 2nd Grade; both would be placed on the North Side in existing buildings.
PITTSBURGH FULTON school in Highland Park could close as part of the PPS district’s new plan.
The proposal calls for six buildings to be closed altogether—Woolslair (501 40th Street, Lawrenceville), Fulton (5799 Hampton St., Highland Park), Manchester Elementary (1612 Manhattan St., Manchester), Miller (also known as McElvey, 2055 Bedford Ave., Hill District), Morrow (Primary Building, 1611 Davis Ave., North Side), and Montessori (Friendship Building, 201 S. Graham St., Friendship). Woolslair would close before the next school year; the other schools would close in time for the 2022-23 school year.
Dr. Hamlet’s plan calls for the reconfiguration of North Side schools King and Morrow from PreK-8 schools to PreK-5 schools. Feeder students in grades 6-8 would go to the new Career Middle School, which would be located in the old Oliver High School building on Brighton Road. Oliver Citywide Academy, as it’s now known, would be relocated.
Minadeo would be reconfigured from a PreK-5 school to a 6-8, and Colfax would go from a K-8 school to a PreK-5. The Colfax feeder students in grades 6-8 would attend the newly configured Minadeo 6-8. Brookline would go from a PreK-8 school to a PreK-5. Brookline feeder students in grades 6-8 would go to Carmalt PreK-8. And Montessori PreK-5 would be relocated to the building where Sterrett Classical Academy sits, 7100 Reynolds St.
“Our first priority remains opening schools for in-person instruction while assuring all our students are getting the educational support they need,” Dr. Hamlet said in the Feb. 1 release. “Even so, the COVID-19 pandemic has ripped the band aid off of the inequities in every school system, including Pittsburgh Public Schools. To succeed as a district and city—we must break from a legacy of inequity. We cannot and should not go back to the way things were.”
Pittsburgh Public Schools students haven’t seen the inside of their schools for nearly 11 months, since COVID forced a two-week closure in March 2020 to turn into an unfortunate circumstance of pandemic proportions that may not be curtailed before the end of this school year. The school board voted on Jan. 25 to delay the start of in-school learning until at least April, as teachers and staff await getting vaccinated.
Remote learning is still occurring within the district, but board members and other educational experts inside and outside the district agree that students, generally, learn better when they’re in the classroom.
Pittsburgh Public Schools is only using 55 percent of its available space, as the total number of students in the district continues to decline. There are about 21,000 students in PPS. There’s room for almost 37,000.
Interim Chief Operations Officer Mike McNamara said that the proposed closures would eliminate 2,780 of the 17,128 empty seats across the district.
“We understand that these are hard decisions to make, McNamara said in the release provided to the Courier. “We are following the data to bring forward the best recommendations educationally for our students and fiscally for the city.”
No final decisions on the school or building closures, as well as the creation of the two schools, can occur before May 26, the date of the board’s legislative meeting. The district seeks to get feedback from the public over the next four months about the proposed plan.