McKeesport Area prepares for a year full of changes

| Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2013, 9:16 a.m.

McKeesport Area School District Superintendent Timothy Gabauer is eager to welcome students and staffers back to school amid numerous construction projects and schedule changes.

“There's always a little bit of a scurry toward the end because you want everything to open up as seamlessly and as perfectly as possible,” Gabauer said. “I'm to the point now where (on Tuesday) we welcome the staff. I'm exciting about welcoming the staff in our first in-service, and feel very comfortable with the leadership that we have within our buildings and throughout the district and our teaching staff. We're ready to greet the students on Thursday.

Class locations for McKeesport Area's young students will change as the school year progresses.

Kindergartners through second-graders registered for Twin Rivers Primary School, including those from Versailles, will attend classes at the former Centennial Elementary School at 1601 Beaver St., before moving to the new school at 1600 Cornell St. in January.

Third- through fifth-graders registered for Twin Rivers Intermediate School will attend classes at the former George Washington School at 1818 Sumac St. before moving to the new school at 1602 Cornell St. in January.

All MASD sixth-graders will attend classes at the former White Oak Elementary School at 1415 California Ave. in White Oak until their new school, Founders' Hall Annex, is constructed. The project is projected to be completed in either October or November of 2014.

Seventh- and eighth-graders will attend classes at Founders' Hall Middle School at 3600 O'Neil Blvd., and high school students will remain at their facility at 1960 Eden Park Blvd.

“Some of the speed bumps that we've had in relation to construction are behind us,” Gabauer said. “We've got a few more ahead of us, but we've now redistricted from last year. We've restructured buildings. We're opening the Twin Rivers Primary/Intermediate. We're going to make that shift mid-year. We've done things we've been pushing to try and get to for years, and some of that's behind us and we're really excited about it.”

Parents and students will see some familiar faces in new roles this school year.

• Former high school assistant principal Anthony Popowitz now serves as assistant principal at Founders' Hall Middle School. Current Founders' Hall assistant principal Paul Sebelia remains at his post.

• Special education teacher Tom Bauman was promoted to assistant high school principal. Mary Ann Plance remains assistant high school principal. Mark Holtzman remains high school principal.

• Former White Oak Elementary principal Tamara Sanders-Woods was appointed the director of McKeesport Area Career & Technology Center.

• Former Francis McClure Intermediate assistant principal Thomas Knight was promoted to principal at Francis McClure Primary School.

• Former Centennial Elementary School principal Staci Fitzpatrick was named principal at Founders' Hall Annex.• Former George Washington School principal Paul Sweda was moved to principal at Twin Rivers Intermediate School.

• Former assistant high school principal Tia Wanzo was moved to principal at Twin Rivers Primary School.

The district is distributing a nine-month wall calendar with more information than last year's single large sheet with less activity dates. District communications/public relations specialist Kristen Giran said officials found parents like to write schedules in the additional calendar space provided by the old style.

MASD director of human resources Jim Humanic said Pennsylvania Coach Lines has worked with the district on the schedule changes, including having dry runs with bus drivers on the new route times during the past few weeks. About 2,100 students are bused daily.

“We essentially have all new busing schedules,” Humanic said. “We started working on it in February with the bus company ... We essentially went from a four-tier structure to a five-tier structure because we've got the Founders' Hall Annex in there at a different time ... It's been difficult in the afternoon because there's a large number of students that need transported in a shorter period of time, and in the morning the start times are spread a little bit more ... We had about 300 or 400 changes after the dry runs were done.”

Alberta Decker, confidential secretary to the board of directors, sent more than 480 updated bus assignment cards last week.

Humanic said more tweaking may be done within the first week of school.

“We're changing from schedules that we had for the past 20 years,” he said. “We knew how they worked, and now this is new. We ask in the morning that (the parents) have the children at the stops 10 minutes before the scheduled arrival time.”

The elementary schools are dismissing last and the high school is dismissing first, a switch from previous years.

“One of the reasons was a lot of our children have siblings who are older,” Giran said. “It made more sense for an older child to be arriving home first so that, in some cases, that may help with a primary student being able to come home and have their older sibling already there instead of the opposite happening.”

Humanic said the switch gives elementary school students about 40 extra minutes of instructional time.

Michael DiVittorio is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1965, or

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