North Allegheny parents question redistricting idea
By Tory N. Parrish
Published: Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Some parents of North Allegheny students are taking issue with the school district's proposals to redraw school boundaries to alleviate overcrowding at several elementary schools and a middle school.
“These scenarios just don't make any sense to me,” Maggie Pople, president of the Parent Faculty Association at Marshall Elementary School, said after a Monday focus group meeting at the school, where district officials including Superintendent Raymond Gualtieri presented the plans.
The meeting was the last of six presented at schools since early November, and the board is to decide in February on a plan that would take effect in the 2014-15 school year.
Three redistricting proposals for the seven North Allegheny elementary schools are being considered.
One scenario would use major roads as borders and impact 408 elementary school students. One would move 390 students to schools east of the buildings they attend, and the third plan is a hybrid of the two proposals that would affect the fewest students overall, 325.
Middle school redistricting plans would reduce enrollment at Ingomar Middle School, by reassigning some students to Marshall and Carson middle schools.
The North Allegheny School District, the largest suburban school system in Allegheny County, has 8,257 students, about the same as a decade ago. But population centers in the four municipalities that make up the district have shifted, resulting in some schools becoming more crowded, district spokeswoman Joy Ed said.
Ingomar Middle School, for example, is considered to have a maximum capacity of 600 students, but 678 are enrolled. Franklin Elementary School can accommodate 550 students, and 515 are there now, according to district data.
Some parents object to the district's plans to shift some students among schools.
One scenario would transfer 52 students from Marshall Elementary School to Bradford Woods Elementary School; 57 Franklin Elementary School students would move to Ingomar Elementary School; and 61 Franklin students would move to Marshall Elementary.
“Why, when you're already moving kids and you want to move fewer kids, why not take the kids from Franklin and send them to Bradford Woods and not move anybody out of Marshall?” Pople asked.
School officials, however, say the proposals take into account future projected growth in particular neighborhoods, such as the Venango Trails housing development in Marshall. That complex will have 470 homes when it is complete, Marshall Planning Director Nicole Zimsky said.
If sewer lines are added to vacant land on the western side of the district, more developments will come, said Robert Scherrer, assistant superintendent of K-12 education.
School officials plan to use parent feedback to craft the best plan that will affect the fewest students, he said.
Some fifth- and eighth-grade students could be “grandfathered in,” meaning they would be allowed to remain at their schools after the redistricting takes effect in 2014-15.
In response to a parent's question Monday about expanding schools, Scherrer said it's difficult to obtain state funding for building additions when there is capacity at existing schools.
District staffers will revise the three redistricting scenarios based on suggestions from parents, and present an update to the school board on Dec. 18.
Staff will recommend a scenario to the board Jan. 15, and the board will vote on a plan Feb. 19.
The redistricting plan that's approved would be in place five to seven years, officials said. The district's previous school boundary change was in 2006.
Tory N. Parrish is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-5662 or email@example.com.
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