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McKeesport Area School District officials to reveal Cornell school's new name

| Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013, 7:00 a.m.
Construction workers raise a beam on the Bailie Avenue side of a new McKeesport Area primary/intermediate school along Cornell Street in McKeesport on Wednesday morning. Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News
A new McKeesport Area primary/intermediate school is taking shape on the former Cornell site. The building is set to open in January 2014. Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News

McKeesport Area School District officials hope by next week to have chosen a name for the new primary/intermediate school that is taking shape on the former Cornell site.

During Wednesday's open agenda meeting, the new school was a highlight in plans for the realignment of grade levels and redistribution of populations in time for the 2013-14 academic year.

“You will have the entire restructuring opening up next school year,” Superintendent Timothy Gabauer said. “There will be some physical movement happening at certain points, including the middle of the school year ... It's been a long time coming. For our children to get into these buildings and to get into this scenario we've been awaiting for for so long is very exciting for all of us.”

By August, White Oak's Francis McClure Primary/Intermediate School will be fully functioning in its capacity that will continue potentially for decades. Its primary school will cover kindergarten through second grade, and its intermediate school will cover third through fifth grades.

This building will include students from McKeesport's Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth, Eighth and Twelfth wards, and White Oak and South Versailles Township.

“There are some traditional boundary lines that have been in existence for many years, so a lot of that was taken into consideration to determine where the students in McKeesport Area School District will go,” Gabauer said. “There's always been some discussion or questions about how sometimes you have a ward which is somewhere within eyesight of a building and they might not have students who go there. That is part of the equity plan to try to provide ample resources to buildings.”

Without equity, Gabauer explained, one building might receive federal and state funding that another building would not, and resources should be distributed proportionately throughout a district.

With that breakdown in mind, the new and currently unnamed school will be divided similarly.

The new building — with the temporary Centennial and George Washington placements from August to December — will include students from McKeesport's Sixth, Seventh, Ninth, Tenth and Eleventh wards, Dravosburg and Versailles.

“Students from Versailles had traditionally gone through Centennial but then moved up to Francis McClure,” Gabauer said. “They will remain in the McKeesport building.”

Students in kindergarten through second grade will begin the school year in the Centennial Elementary building, and those in third through fifth grade will begin the year at George Washington.

When students return from winter break in January, they will keep the same teachers and classmates as they move to a completed primary/intermediate building along Cornell Street.

That building hopefully will be given a name at next week's voting meeting, district officials said. The district plans to choose one from suggestions it solicited from the public.

Additional hearings for the closure of White Oak, Centennial and George Washington elementary schools are planned, pending legal advertisement, for Wednesday at 7 p.m.

At the intermediate level, the district's Magnet programs will offer an Academy in Math and Science at the new school and an Academy of World Language at Francis McClure.

“We've operated the Academy in Math and Science, and we are expanding that,” Gabauer said. “We are going to use that for choice within the district as time moves on. It was part of our planning years ago when three buildings were going to be built that there was going to be a World Languages Academy, a Math and Science Academy and a Performing Arts Academy.”

With the reduction to two locations for primary- and intermediate-level students, performing arts has been eliminated from a full academy focus.

At the middle school level, Founders Hall will include all McKeesport Area students in sixth through eighth grades.

During the 2013-14 school year, however, sixth-graders will be housed in the White Oak Elementary building as an annex until construction of the Sixth Grade Academy is complete. Seventh- and eighth-graders will remain at Founders during construction.

While not addressed in the February agenda, district officials plan to cover starting and ending times for the 2013-14 year during March sessions.

“With the entire restructuring that we have going on, there's quite a bit of discussion to figure out the best way to ... maximize the instructional day,” Gabauer said. “There is a proposal that has the older students starting earlier and the younger students starting a little bit later.”

Jennifer R. Vertullo is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1956, or jvertullo@tribweb.com.

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