Students, parents react to possible school closings


On a cloudy fall day in Brighton Heights, a group of parents and grandparents lined up outside of Morrow Elementary waiting for their children and grandchildren to emerge. They pressed up against the fence, looking through the wrought iron posts.

A shrill bell sounded, and students trickled out. The children spotted their parents from behind the fence and ran up to them, smiling.
In a few years that scene may be a memory.

Consulting firm DeJong has recommended that the Pittsburgh Board of Education close 16 buildings and nine schools — including Morrow, Manchester, Schiller and Oliver — in order to use space most effectively.

Kristina Wallace of Brighton Heights, who has a kindergartener in Morrow, lives within sight of the school. “I have an 18-month-old who will go here if they don’t close.”

If they do close, her husband will have to pick the kids up, unless they are transferred to Rooney, which is right down the street. But if her husband is forced to pick up the kids, he will have to leave work, which could become a hardship.

Belinda Watts, also of Brighton Heights, does not understand why they might close Morrow. “To me all these schools aren’t as good as [Morrow]. This is better for the kids that live in this area.”

Watts also expressed worry over her grandchildren having to take a bus to school. “These kids are too little to be riding a bus.”

Marico Isom of Brighton Heights hopes they don’t close Morrow, but is prepared to drive to and from whatever school he needs to.

“It’s kind of a luxury to be able to walk to school,” Isom said.

Other buildings slated to close include Manchester Elementary and the Schiller Middle School. Oliver High School would move across the Ohio to the Langley High School building, and the Oliver building would be used for McNaugher students.

A teacher at Manchester Elementary, who did not want to reveal her name, said kids were more likely to stay in school if they could walk. Many of the parents whose children go to Manchester don’t drive.

“[Manchester Elementary is] a walking school. It’s [for] convenience sake, for not having to take the bus. It’s easier on them.”

Eighth-grader Trevon Adams doesn’t believe closing Manchester will affect the neighborhood “because there’s another Manchester right over there.” He pointed in the direction of Manchester Academic Charter School.

Taylor Lucas, who walks her neighbor’s son home from school each day, wondered where all the students would go. Her neighbor’s son was going to Martin Luther King Elementary, but he transferred to Manchester because as a kindergartener, he was too young to ride the school bus.

Fran of Brighton Heights, who wouldn’t reveal her full name, expressed worry over her grandchildren having to transfer to Rooney, which would become an elementary and middle school if the district follows DeJong’s recommendations.

“Rooney’s right down there, but of course Rooney has a reputation. I haven’t heard anything good about it.”

Although John Paul Griffith’s fifth grade daughter will be leaving Morrow next year, he did not think closing Morrow would benefit the neighborhood. “Leaving a building this size empty can’t be good.”

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