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Officials consider closing Moss Side Middle School

| Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Gateway School District officials are discussing the pros and cons of closing Moss Side Middle School, in light of costly maintenance needed there and declining enrollment throughout the district.

Superintendent Nina Zetty said Monday that officials have considered moving fifth-graders to the elementary schools and moving sixth-graders to Gateway Middle School, which houses seventh- and eighth-graders.

If Moss Side had been closed this school year, the district would have saved an estimated $1 million, Zetty said.

Depending on the cost of maintenance projects at Moss Side — which include repairs to the roof, ventilation system and lockers — the school board could cut losses and close the school, Zetty said.

However, officials would have to take into account available space at each of the remaining schools, she said.

“This includes cafeteria and lunchroom capacities, restroom availability, parking and traffic flow, storage and gymnasium space,” Zetty said.

From 2005 to 2013, enrollment in Gateway schools declined from 4,304 to 3,503, according to district records.

Contributing to the decline is the rise of charter schools, including Pitcairn Propel. The brick-and-mortar charter school opened in the former Pitcairn Elementary School in 2012. The school district closed Pitcairn Elementary in 2011.

Before decisions are made, school officials should examine enrollment at the start of next school year, said school director Dave Magill, who also serves on the buildings and grounds committee.

“We have seen our numbers start to creep back up again,” he said.

Enrollment declined only by nine students this school year, due in part to the implementation of full-day kindergarten, officials said.

Meanwhile, some Gateway parents have voiced support for sending fifth-graders back to the elementary schools for financial and educational purposes, said Ramsey Elementary parent Carolyn Raymer.

Raymer created an online survey that 31 Gateway parents have viewed, with 26 saying fifth-graders should move to elementary schools. This could reduce district costs, simplify bus schedules and make for an easier transition out of elementary school, Raymer said.

School board candidate Stephanie Byrne said she would support sending fifth-graders to elementary schools, to eliminate what she called an “unnecessary” transition for students.

“It does seem like a lot of unnecessary changes, to go through two different schools that are each only two years,” said Byrne, also the mother of a Gateway elementary student.

However, the administrative offices are in Moss Side Middle School, which could complicate a decision to close the building, Magill said.

The buildings and grounds committee will discuss the issue at its next meeting, which hasn't been scheduled, Magill said. The committee typically meets about three times a year, he said.

To give an opinion on a survey about moving fifth-graders to elementary schools, go to www.jooners.com/guest?l=dfafde55-f0f2-490b-92da-3d6feb57d62f.

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

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