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Norwin rejects Duquesne tuition plan

| Saturday, Feb. 23, 2013, 1:21 a.m.

On the same day Duquesne school directors rejected the idea, a third area school district also said no to a voluntary transfer of Duquesne elementary students.

In a letter sent on Thursday to state-appointed chief recovery officer Paul B. Long, Norwin Superintendent William H. Kerr said his district has a policy of not accepting “tuition students who live outside the borders” of a district covering Irwin, North Huntingdon Township and North Irwin, as well as a handful of households in White Oak and South Versailles Township.

“While there are very restricted exceptions under the board's policy for nonresident students to attend on a temporary basis due to extenuating circumstances,” Kerr wrote, “none of those circumstances would apply here.”

Norwin joined Elizabeth Forward and South Allegheny in turning down a proposal that came with an $8,000 tuition per student. Kerr cited “less than adequate tuition” as well as increases in class size, overcrowded school buildings “and the geographic distance.”

The nearest Norwin school to Duquesne, Stewartsville Elementary, is eight miles from Duquesne Education Center and 11 miles from the Duquesne Place apartments where buses stop for youngsters headed to Duquesne's elementary school.

“Even if (Norwin) board policy permitted nonresident students to be enrolled,” Kerr wrote, “it would not be in the best interest of the Norwin School District's academic programs and services.”

While the Duquesne school board rejected the idea, state Act 141 authorizes education secretary Ron Tomalis to ask an Allegheny County Common Pleas Court judge to place the district in receivership and assign someone to implement Long's plan. No filing occurred on Friday, but under Act 141 requirements Tomalis has until Tuesday to seek court action.

If the plan is implemented, districts with elementary schools that achieved Adequate Yearly Progress on Pennsylvania System of School Assessment tests would be contacted.

Long also planned to contact Baldwin-Whitehall, Brentwood, East Allegheny, Gateway, Pittsburgh, South Park Township, West Jefferson Hills and West Mifflin Area districts.

Long has declined comment about the previous rejections, saying he would wait for official notification and not reply through the newspaper.

Meanwhile, a state education department spokesman clarified the situation surrounding elimination of a transitional loan from the plan prior to Thursday's vote.

Long said the district would not get a $6,785,000 transitional loan because the department told him the money was not available.

“(Long) called for a $6.785 million to refund debt and $1 million for extraordinary costs of plan implementation,” spokesman Tim Eller said. “(He) was informed that transition loan funds could not be used for the $6.785 million refund of debt, but could be used for the $1 million for extraordinary costs.”

Patrick Cloonan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1967, or pcloonan@tribweb.com.

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