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Church asks to rent Gateway Middle School for Sunday services

| Tuesday, June 18, 2013, 7:52 p.m.

Sunday church services at Gateway Middle School could generate revenue for the district, while some officials said it could set an improper precedent.

Representatives of Harvest Bible Chapel, Pittsburgh East, requested to rent a district facility for Sunday services. The initial request was for Ramsey Elementary, but the school board decided this week that Gateway Middle School is a better option. Narrow streets, limited parking and a neighborhood near Ramsey might cause concern for the Monroeville Zoning Board, officials said.

The services would generate about $40,000 for the district per year, officials said.

There is no policy that prohibits a church group from renting a district facility, though some school directors expressed concern with setting a precedent.

“I think we may be opening up something that we may lose control of later,” said school director Jan Rawson. “I think you're going to find you're going to have other religious groups wanting to come in, and you're not going to be able to turn them down.”

Gateway solicitor Bruce Dice agreed with Rawson's assessment.

“There's no question if you do it for one you're going to do it for everyone.”

But it's not as if a religious group would get preference over a school function, said school board President Steve O'Donnell.

According to the rental policy, school activities have first priority and applicants are required to pay for additional custodial or food services.

Officials were directed by the board to offer the church a three-month trial at Gateway Middle School to ensure it doesn't create a conflict with local sporting events and recreation.

The request would require approval from the municipal zoning board, officials said.

Kyle Lawson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8755, or klawson@tribweb.com.

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