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Plan would keep Boyce Campus Middle School open

| Wednesday, June 12, 2013, 6:47 p.m.

The Penn Hills School District might make some Gateway and Plum parents happy by taking a larger role in east-suburb alternative education.

Penn Hills officials have proposed providing the teachers and paying the rent for Boyce Campus Middle College High School, while Gateway and Plum could pay tuition for students to attend, Gateway Superintendent Nina Zetty said.

The plan is contingent upon approval from the Pennsylvania Department of Education, she said.

“If they're able to accomplish that goal, that's the route we recommend at this time,” Zetty said.

The current BCMC school year is projected to cost Gateway taxpayers about $350,000, which covers three teachers and the district's share of the rent, Gateway spokeswoman Cara Zanella said.

Currently, 31 Gateway students attend BCMC, located at the Community College of Allegheny County's Boyce Campus.

Plum officials decided to sever ties with the program at the end of this school year, which in effect would double the cost of rent for Gateway, Zanella said.

However, if Gateway pays tuition in lieu of a rental fee and teachers' salaries, the total cost next school year would “not exceed what we're currently paying,” Zetty said.

Plum School District calculated a $234,913 savings from discontinuing the program in the next school year.

Plum officials said 17 students were scheduled to be in the program this fall.

Still, Plum Superintendent Timothy Glasspool said he is awaiting a proposal from the Penn Hills School District that he would present to the Plum School Board for consideration.

Penn Hills Superintendent Tom Washington said that if the state education department approves the plan, it will continue to “function as an agreement between the districts, with Penn Hills running it and (students from other districts) invited to come.”

Washington said Penn Hills officials are looking to keep the program going “in a very similar, maybe smaller, fashion, but also in a similar vein with what we're doing now in the partnership with Gateway and Plum.”

Washington added that the potential new structure should not cost the district additional money: there is currently about $350,000 in the proposed 2013-14 budget for BCMC costs.

“What happens is, every district has to deal with their own budget,” Washington said. “So it's still in our budget, and the additional pieces would be picked up, if we're allowed, through tuition.”

There are 104 students — including 27 from Plum and 47 from Penn Hills — enrolled at BCMC for the 2012-13 school year.

Gateway students who struggled in the traditional school setting have said they prefer the smaller class sizes at BCMC.

Parents showed up at the May 29 Gateway School Board meeting to fight for the program.

“Without that school, I don't know that (my daughter) would've finished school,” said Gateway parent Tonya Bentley.

Plum parent Donna Lloyd said her son always has been an A student, but that he wasn't comfortable in a large school district. She said BCMC is a perfect fit.

“Cyber schools and charter schools are not set up for my son, because he needs socialization,” Lloyd said.

“He needs that and the smaller classes.”

Gateway School Director Janice Rawson voted last year to maintain Gateway's participation in the program.

She said a conversation with a BCMC parent last week reaffirmed her position.

“She came up and gave me a big hug,” Rawson said.

“She said,‘I just want you to know, that (my son) has graduated, he is going to college and he is an A student.'”

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

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