The playground at Morrow in Brighton Heights. (Photo courtesy Henry Clay Webster).
As students at Morrow PreK-5 enter their final quarter, confusion and questions linger over what the school will be next year, what new students will be coming, what buildings will be used and who will serve as the school’s principal.
As part of the district realignment plan that is estimated to decrease a projected $21.7 million operating deficit for the 2012 school year, Morrow will grow to a PreK-8 school, take students from Northview Heights PreK-8 and expand into the Rooney building that is currently closed.
While the plan includes reopening the Rooney building and expanding to a PreK-8, Morrow will grow to a PreK-6 next year and students will remain in the Morrow building for the 2012-2013 school year.
Morrow currently holds 374 students in its PreK-5 grades. Next year, the Morrow building will add two sixth grade classes, the autistic learning support program, two additional Pre-K classes from Northview and approximately 17 students from the Summer Hill neighborhood. Students from the Northview Heights neighborhood will attend King PreK-8 and Allegheny 6-8.
Despite the additional students, PPS administrators do not anticipate space being a problem, as this scenario was examined long before the announced realignment.
In the 2013-2014 school year, fifth, sixth and seventh graders will expand into the Rooney building.
PPS Assistant Superintendent for K-5 Dr. Barbara Rudiak said that Rooney is in good condition and little renovation will need to be done as the building was once a middle school.
Principal reassignments will be announced in the next two months, meaning before the end of the school year, Morrow students will know who will be their principal.
Tony DeCarlo, president of Morrow’s Parent Teacher Organization, said that the PSO at Morrow has been very supportive of current principal, Alivia Clark, and the “family feel” she brings to the school. Decarlo said he hopes to see her return next year as principal.
“I’m very supportive of what’s been going on since she got there three years ago,” said DeCarlo.
Despite the finality of the plan, many in the community feel they have not been kept up to date about changes that they will see in their community’s school.
“There’s not really a lot of knowledge out there,” said DeCarlo, who noted that most people in the Morrow community were only hearing “snippets” of the plan.
“Not too many people know what’s going on,” he said.
Pete Bellisario, president of the Brighton Heights Citizens’ Federation, said people in the community are concerned about their uncertainty in the public school’s future.
“You don’t build a community without good schools,” said Bellisario, who said he had a neighbor with three kids in the public school district who put their house up for sale because they didn’t know what was going on for the 2012-2013 school year.
To help open lines of communication Nancy Kodman, who is coordinating the transition across the District and Clark are planning several events and meetings in mid-May for new students and parents to meet the principal and see the Morrow building.
Clark and DeCarlo plan to sit down and compose a letter to parents this week outlining the specifics of the changes that will take place next year.
Despite the lack of communication, both PPS administrators and Morrow parents feel that expanding Morrow into a Pre-K-8 school is a positive change.
“This plan is ideal in that we’re growing into the PreK-8, which is a luxury we haven’t always had before,” said Kodman.
“This is a win for the Northside,” said DeCarlo. “This is the better model to go with. I don’t know if they’ll get the numbers they’re looking for in the first two years, but I think that five years from now, it’ll be a healthy school.”
PPS administrators said this is a great opportunity to attract new students in the neighborhoods of Brighton Heights and Summer Hill and bring them back into the public school system.
“For families, there is such consistency in having the same principal because you’re part of the same school culture,” said Rudiak who noted the plan would expand facilities and offer more resources to Morrow.