PPS plan to close seven schools, build two new ones put on hold after board members share concerns

PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh Public Schools announced Monday night a plan to potentially close down seven schools and six other buildings, but build two new schools by 2023.

The district called this -- part of its strategic plan titled “Imagine PPS” -- a way to “modernize” its footprint and “ensure fiscal sustainability for years to come.”

It’s a proposal already facing resistance from parents and teachers.

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“That’s a little devastating and crazy. Seven schools? That’s devastating. I’m almost speechless,” said Tawana Davis, parents of 6-year-old Ariella, who is set to be attending in-person classes at Fulton Elementary when classes resume. But that future may not last long with Fulton on a list of seven schools that could be closed in the next 18 months.

While Ariella has taken to cyber learning after nearly a year, Davis said the closing could lead to a tough decision and a fulltime switch to cyber learning, since students will not be returning for in-person learning before April.

“I don’t want to do her like that just yet. But if it comes to it, that will be me too,” she said.

Davis said that virtual learning has presented challenges, but Ariella has shown real progress.

“It’s not her and a whole studio full of kids. It’s her, so she’ll sit down and focus more on her math or her reading. Now, she’ll come over and read books to me,” she said.

But that can also come with a false sense of easiness.

“You can sense the laziness of being at home all day,” she said.

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Next year, the only school or building to close would be Woolslair. The rest would shut down during the 2022-23 school year:

  • Allegheny 6-8
  • Arsenal 6-8
  • Sterrett 6-8
  • Fulton PreK-5
  • Fulton
  • Manchester
  • Miller PreK-5
  • McKelvey (Miller)
  • Morrow (Primary Building)
  • Friendship (Montessori)

A news release stated the plan would eliminate nearly 2.800 empty seats districtwide.

Both new schools, Career Middle School and Birth to 2nd Grade, would be located on the North Side.

Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers President Nina Esposito-Visgitis says they want to hear more from the district.

“It’s just an idea. So, we’re going to listen carefully. I’m very worried about class sizes at this point. I hope they’re not using this to save money at the expense of what’s best for our students,” Esposito-Visgitis said.

There are also more proposals from the school district, including:

  • Relocation of the Oliver Citywide Academy.
  • Reconfiguration of Pittsburgh Minadeo from a PreK-5 school to a 6-8.
  • Reconfiguration of Pittsburgh Colfax from a K-8 school to a PreK-5. Colfax feeder students in grades 6-8 would go to reconfigured Minadeo 6-8.
  • Reconfiguration of Pittsburgh Brookline from a PreK-8 school to a PreK-5. Brookline feeder students in grades 6-8 would go to Pittsburgh Carmalt.
  • Reconfiguration of Pittsburgh King and Pittsburgh Morrow from PreK-8 schools to PreK-5 schools: Feeder students in grades 6-8 would go to new Career Middle School.
  • Relocation of Pittsburgh Montessori into the Sterrett building.

The earliest the school board will vote on the proposal is May 26. The majority of board members said they are tabling the resolution because they feel there aren’t enough options under the plan. They also said it’s not the right time for this plan.

“We have a $30 million deficit. As we keep pushing it down the road, it’s going to get worse and worse and worse,” superintendent Dr. Anthony Hamlet said during Tuesday’s board meeting.