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An empty playground at John Morrow Elementary School in Brighton Heights portends the future if the city school district follows a consulting company’s recommendation to close the building. (Photo/Henry Clay Webster)
If the Pittsburgh Public School District follows the recommendations of an independent consulting firm, several Northside schools could close and others could shrink or expand to new boundaries.
In early November, the district released the results of a six-month-long, district-wide facilities evaluation by consulting firm DeJong.
According to the report, schools recommended for closure include Manchester PreK – 8, Morrow PreK – 5, Schiller 6 – 8 and Oliver High School. In the case of Oliver, students would move to Langley High School across the Ohio River in Sheraden, and the Oliver building would be used for students from McNaugher. The McNaugher building would then close.
Morrow, Manchester and Schiller would close entirely. Morrow students would go to Northview PreK – 5 and Rooney (although currently a middle school, Rooney would be expanded to a PreK – 8) and Manchester students would go to King PreK – 8. Schiller students would transfer to the Pittsburgh Classical Academy at Greenway.
District Spokesperson Ebony Pugh emphasized the point that the firm’s recommendations were just that — recommendations — and that the district would not make a decision until after it examined the academic needs of the students and budgetary restrictions of the district.
“It’s not set in stone,” she said.
Enrollments in Pittsburgh Public Schools have been declining, and Pugh said the evaluation was necessary to avoid problems in the future.DeJong predicts a 15.9 percent decrease in enrollment over the next 10 years. They concluded that the district has too many buildings and is not using space efficiently.
DeJong took the conditions of all facilities into consideration in deciding which buildings should close and which should remain open.
They estimated how much renovations would cost at each building to bring it back to mint condition. The measurement is called a Facility Condition Index, which grades buildings by giving lower scores to those in better shape.
Rooney Middle School in Brighton Heights rated the highest of the Northside schools in terms of condition, with an FCI of 12.24 percent. It came in fourth best condition out of 80 buildings in the district.
King Elementary was the second-highest rated Northside school: It ranked 15th district-wide with an FCI of 28.5 percent. Manchester PreK – 8 came in the lowest, at 74th best out of 80, with an FCI of 75.12 percent.
With a score of 12.24 percent, it would cost the district 12.24 percent of the cost of building a new building to renovate Rooney. Or in the case of Manchester, it would cost 75.12 percent the cost of a new building.
The building closings, boundary readjustments and grade changes would happen over four phases lasting until 2020. Overall, DeJong suggests that the district close nine schools and 16 buildings.
Pugh said the next steps for the district were to engage with the community and look at academic needs and budgetary restrictions. She said it was likely the district would not take further action for six months to a year.
“This will be an opportunity to get the public engaged,” she said.
The district posted DeJong’s report summaries on its website, including all the FCI ratings, summaries of recommended changes and maps for suggested boundary readjustments.