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New Ken-Arnold schedules April 16 hearing on possible school closings

| Friday, March 28, 2014, 2:14 p.m.

The New Kensington-Arnold School Board will host a public hearing on April 16 to present a proposal for consolidating schools.

Board Vice President Pat Petit said if the board members decide to close any schools for the start of the 2014-15 year, they must have a hearing and then wait 90 days before making a final decision, according to state regulations. Having the hearing on April 16 is necessary to meet that time frame.

However, Petit said closing a school is not a given.

“I don't want to rush into something like this,” he said on Thursday. “We still may not close a school. But this way we're covered. It gives us something we can work on.”

Earlier this month Petit presented a tentative plan for reducing the number of schools from six to three or four:

• Valley High School would house grades 7 through 12, with the two younger grades segregated from the high schoolers and operating on a different schedule.

• Valley Middle School, third through sixth grades.

• H.D. Berkey School, kindergarten through second grades.

Petit said kindergarten could fit at Martin Elementary School, which he said could also be used for administration, alternative education, life skills and preschool.

Petit said the reconfiguration could pave the way for restoring full-day kindergarten.

Under Petit's proposal, Fort Crawford and Greenwald Memorial elementary schools would close.

Petit and Superintendent John Pallone previously said the tentative goal would be to implement the changes at the high school and middle school by the start of school next year, with the H.D. Berkey changes to begin in 2015-16.

Board member Regina Namey asked fellow directors to consider alternative elementary configurations since H.D. Berkey is older than some of the other buildings.

“Are we going to mothball Greenwald and Fort Crawford, the newest of our buildings?” she asked.

Noting the vacant Knollwood Road property that was home to the former Edgewood School remains in the district's possession, Namey also asked the administration to talk to someone in real estate to determine which schools would be the most marketable so that could be factored into the board's decision.

Petit said he wasn't committed to any particular reconfiguration. He proposed using the high school, middle school and Berkey because they are the largest buildings that would need little renovation. He noted the Berkey property also had the most room for expansion of the elementary buildings.

Petit said the consolidation should not result in class sizes larger than those outlined in the district's teachers contract: 20 students in elementary grades and 25 in the secondary.

Petit said current class size averages range from 11 to 16 across the district's schools.

“That's why we can't keep operating the way we're operating,” he said.

Liz Hayes is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4680 or lhayes@tribweb.com.

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