Allegheny Valley ponders closing Colfax Upper Elementary

| Wednesday, April 10, 2013, 7:33 a.m.

Allegheny Valley School District officials will be grappling with the future of the Colfax Upper Elementary School over the next few months.

School board members and residents on Tuesday night viewed results of a recent study that looks at the possibility of closing Colfax and transferring students to the district's other two schools.

Colfax houses students in grades 4-6.

Board members don't expect to make a decision for about a year.

A meeting is scheduled for May 21 to further review the study and possibly schedule a tour of the district's schools.

The school board ordered the study to see how the district can best utilize existing buildings.

The school district's enrollment has just dipped below the 1,000 mark, with 996 students in kindergarten through 12th grade.

Allegheny Valley has lost 239 students in the past decade.

Students from kindergarten through third grade attend Acmetonia Primary School; grades 6-8, the junior high; and grades 9-12, the high school.

The junior and senior high school campus consists of several wings of the same building for the two grade levels.

One possibility is sending fourth- and fifth-graders to Acmetonia and sixth-graders to the junior high.

Currently, there are three empty classrooms in the senior high and one in the primary school.

Officials say Colfax needs several renovations and updates, including a new roof, mechanical system updates, new carpeting and changes to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

It costs about $130,000 a year to operate Colfax in regard to maintenance, electricity, water and sewerage.

If the board decides to pursue closing Colfax, items such as bus schedules, cafeteria schedules, possible teacher furloughs and building starting times would be considered.

Solicitor Matthew Hoffman said a public hearing would be required three months prior to any school closing. Staff would have to be notified of any furloughs and state approval would be needed.

Board members had various questions and concerns about the study, but no staff members or residents commented on Tuesday.

High school safety updates

Building and grounds supervisor Cesareo Sanchez listed a number of safety updates for the senior high school that he said demand immediate attention.

The bill comes to nearly $350,000, which would be covered by the district's capital budget.

• Concrete pillars should be installed in front of the auditorium to prevent a vehicle from driving into the building.

Sanchez said the Omni stone surface at the entrance is hard to maintain in winter and restrooms serving the auditorium must be updated and comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

• The auditorium stage needs to be repaired and the aging curtains replaced. Equipment such as a sound system that dates to 1996 should be updated or replaced.

• Bathrooms serving the Donald McGhee Fieldhouse should be updated, and the doors fail ADA compliance.

• Kitchen lights need to be replaced, according to Allegheny County Health Department officials.

• Carpets in the school's B Wing need to be replaced. Sanchez recommends installing tiles instead of new carpet.

• At Acmetonia, drains serving the courtyard need to be replaced as soon as possible.

George Guido is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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