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Penn Hills

Penn Hills School District sells former elementary building to charter school

Michael DiVittorio
| Tuesday, May 22, 2018, 1:48 p.m.
Penn Hills Charter School of Entrepreneurship bought Washington Elementary School from Penn Hills School District for $3 million in May.
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Penn Hills Charter School of Entrepreneurship bought Washington Elementary School from Penn Hills School District for $3 million in May.

Penn Hills Charter School of Entrepreneurship has a permanent home in the municipality.

Officials from Penn Hills School District and the charter agreed on a $3 million sale of the former Washington Elementary School at 2501 Main St.

Charter school officials authorized a purchase offer May 10. The Penn Hills school board approved its portion of the sale May 21.

“This is for what the appraisal was,” board President Erin Vecchio said. “It feels wonderful (to make the sale), and it will be back on the tax rolls.”

The charter school was about to enter its third year of a five-year lease of the property, with an annual rent of $500,000.

That lease deal, with an option to purchase, was approved in April 2016.

“It makes the most sense for us to make additional capital improvements and redesign the facility,” charter school COO Wayne Jones said of the purchase. “Everyone is aware of the financial situations that (the school district is) in. I believe it's a win-win situation for both organizations at this point.”

The district plans to approve its preliminary 2018-19 budget this month with a tax increase and 12 teacher furloughs in an effort to close an estimated $7 million shortfall.

District Treasurer Robert Marra said the sale's $2.5 million net revenue — purchase price minus the rent — will be used to help offset the deficit.

Charter school officials plan to upgrade student restrooms to make them ADA compliant, and convert a classroom into a maker space, a multi-purpose room for hands-on instruction. The agreement also grants access to five additional rooms currently used for district storage.

“Our intention is to fit comfortably in the building and offer as many innovative education opportunities to ensure that our students are prepared for the 21st century,” Jones said.

The charter school had 390 students enrolled and 30 instructors including teachers, paraprofessionals and instructional aides.

Jones said the purchase will be funded through a loan, but declined to divulge its details because terms were not finalized.

Michael DiVittorio is a Tribune-Review staff writer.

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