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Penn Hills council denies classroom extension for Imagine charter

| Monday, July 15, 2013, 11:09 p.m.

Barring an appeal, officials at the Imagine Penn Hills Charter School of Entrepreneurship will have to make due without modular classrooms in the 2013-14 school year.

Council on Monday night denied the extension of a conditional use granted last year for modular classroom trailers on the charter school's Penn School Road campus by a unanimous vote. Imagine requested the one-year extension as they proceed with plans to renovate the former Anter building at 1700 Universal Road to expand the school's available classroom space. The school will be adding a fourth grade in the coming year.

Deputy Mayor Sara Kuhn cited Imagine's “lack of a backup plan” in her reasons for denial, despite the fact that Imagine had just such a plan — school officials secured a use variance from the municipality for classroom space in a professional park on Frankstown Road; however, that property went into receivership and could not be utilized, according to Imagine attorney Alan Shuckrow.

“We're obviously disappointed,” Shuckrow said. “We thought that we'd addressed all (council's) concerns tonight. There are no code violations, the modular units are educationally sound and the teachers enjoy teaching in them.”

School officials will now await council's written decision, in which they are required to spell out their legal reasons for denial. Shuckrow said he did not hear a “valid legal reason to deny the application” from anyone on council.

“Their own code enforcement officer wrote a memo (included in the council packet) saying that we're in compliance,” Shuckrow said.

Imagine school board president Becky Brennan said they school is moving forward.

“We're confident that with or without the modulars, we can have a successful year,” she said.

Once work on the Universal Road property is complete, Brennan said the school's plan is to house kindergarten through second grade at the Penn School Road campus, with additional grades up through eighth in the new building.

Patrick Varine is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7845 or pvarine@tribweb.com.

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