Moon board mulls Allard Elementary's fate

| Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

While the Moon Area School Board is mulling whether to renovate or close Allard Elementary School, Robert Morris University is eyeing the school as a potential site to help teachers in training.

Robert Del Greco, a former Allard principal who now is at RMU, told the school board on Monday that RMU education students could observe classes, or provide tutoring to students.

Allard is the closest elementary school to RMU's campus on University Boulevard in Moon.

“We place student teachers in all five elementary schools” in the Moon Area district and elsewhere across eight Western Pennsylvania counties, he said.

The university, which can grant reading specialist certifications, could hold reading screenings during the summer at Allard, Del Greco said, and could help to enhance other programs there as part of a professional development school cooperative.

The school board is considering Allard's future, after the district's fifth-graders moved to the middle school this year.

Del Greco said the first steps to make Allard or another school a professional development school would be obtaining the school board's commitment, identifying a school, agreeing on goals for the school and developing a plan this winter or spring. University officials hope to have a professional development school in place by next fall.

School Director Dennis Harbaugh said the board's facilities committee, which he chairs, will follow up next month with the university on the proposal. RMU already provides several programs in the Moon Area schools.

The district has retained consultants to study its elementary schools. About 23 rooms are under-used, because fifth-grade classes now are in the middle school.

Five scenarios for closing, renovating or adding onto various buildings have been proposed.

Colleen Murphy of Moon said Monday that other districts that have closed schools “are sitting with empty buildings for years. They are difficult to sell or repurpose.”

Also, “mega-schools would take a huge value away from” Moon Area, Murphy said.

Harbaugh said the board is looking for other ideas, and would look at all options. “I don't think we're aiming for mega-schools,” he said.

Still, Moon Area has more elementary schools for its size than other districts, board member Ron Steele said. Hampton and West Allegheny, each with more than 3,000 students, have three elementary schools. Neighboring Montour, with 2,894 students, has two elementary schools and is consolidating to one.

Mike Baker of Moon said more than half of all elementary students live west of University Boulevard, but many ride by Allard and Hyde schools to attend Brooks in the eastern part of the township.

He suggested the board study the elementary population by geographic area, to see what would happen with redrawn school boundaries, before making any decisions.

The discussion grew testy, and solicitor Michael Brungo cautioned the audience not to call out comments.

“No one wants to close a school, but we have to look at all the options,” board President Sandra McCurdy said.

Sandra Fischione Donovan is a freelance writer.

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