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Study looks at 'booming' West Jefferson Hills School District

| Friday, Oct. 6, 2017, 11:00 p.m.
West Jefferson Hills School District's Gill Hall Elementary
West Jefferson Hills School District's Gill Hall Elementary

An architectural firm will study the West Jefferson Hills School District's growing population during the next several months, and determine what facilities are needed.

Board members at a special meeting last week accepted a proposal from Bellevue-based Core Architects to conduct a feasibility study of the district at a cost of $16,000. “Everything is on the table, from renovations to expansions to new buildings,” Superintendent Michael Ghilani said. “But it has to be done within the confines of what the district can afford.”

A demographic study of the district, completed this summer, showed the student population “is exploding,” specifically at the preschool level with children ages 2 to 6, Ghilani said. The population growth comes from several housing developments being constructed in Jefferson Hills.

However, Ghilani noted that the study did not address turnover from a senior population to much younger families moving into Pleasant Hills, and possibly could have underestimated the district's future growth.

McClellan Elementary School is already at capacity and Gill Hall Elementary is nearing that point, he said. Jefferson Elementary has “a little bit of room” left.

“As that population starting next year begins to come into those schools, we're going to have major space issues,” Ghilani said.

The district accepted requests for proposals from architectural firms for the feasibility study. Three of the firms that applied recently gave presentations to the school board.

Core Architects will review the district's demographic study and create a facilities study for each of the district's buildings. They will provide short- and long-term plans for addressing the district's growth.

“First and foremost, I think the guiding principles for this is it has to support the vision and the educational program that we want to deliver in all of our buildings,” Ghilani said. “We want to do that while having up-to-date facilities that are comfortable and safe for the kids.”

Cost also will be a factor.

West Jefferson Hills underwent a redistricting during the 2012-13 school year, where nearly 60 students were moved from Gill Hall to McClellan, as the district experienced a burst of growth.

“The problem is with so many plans being built, and so many houses being built, to keep redistricting is basically like pushing a bubble. You push it here then you push it there. You're constantly transitioning kids and families — which isn't good or healthy for kids,” Ghilani said. District leaders plan to have the feasibility study complete by January so they can start meeting with parents and community members to discuss the next steps.

“Based off of our demographic study and what we have going on in our buildings right now, there's a very good possibility we could have to do something different next year,” Ghilani said.

Stephanie Hacke is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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