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Penn-Trafford school officials look to share resources

| Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

With enrollment expected to decline for the ninth straight year, Penn-Trafford School District officials are considering sharing resources with other school districts through the Westmoreland Intermediate Unit.

Penn-Trafford's projected enrollment for the start of school on Aug. 22 is 4,069, which is 38 fewer students than last year and 304 down from just five years ago.

School Board President P. Jay Tray plans to give a report on declining enrollment throughout Westmoreland County at the scholl board meeting Monday. Aside from Norwin, which has experienced growth for half a decade, all other county districts are losing students, he said.

Tray said the decline might enable the county districts to work through the intermediate unit to share resources and save money. There have been discussions about having a meeting of all of the school board presidents at the intermediate unit, following a practice the districts among their superintendents, he said.

β€œIt's a great opportunity for us to get together and share,” Tray said.

In recent months, the student population has become an important topic as Penn-Trafford officials prepared the annual budget and began to analyze options for the long-term use of district buildings.

In June, the school board unanimously approved a 2013-14 budget that doesn't replace eight of nine teachers who recently retired. Overall, the teaching staff has fallen by 38 positions in the past six years.

The number of projected pupils also is significant as officials decide which aging schools to remodel. The school board already is embarking on a project at the 41-year-old high school β€” which is the newest building in the district β€” but officials have said they might have to consider consolidation as the enrollment shrinks.

Tray recently said that the board wants interim Superintendent Matt Harris to present a long-range plan for the district's buildings.

Last year, a consulting architect filed an outline of a potential project to build a school for grades kindergarten through eight off Watt Road, where McCullough Elementary School is.

District officials have described the application to the state's PlanCon program, which provides reimbursement for construction projects, as a placeholder in case the state withdraws its moratorium on PlanCon reimbursements.

Penn-Trafford isn't bound to the K-8 project application, and school board members haven't voted on any consolidation or construction plans for the elementary and middle schools.

Projections released by the state Department of Education in 2011 showed that Penn-Trafford's enrollment would fall to 3,517 in 2018-19 and 3,385 in 2020-21. If that were the case, the graduating class would have fallen from 386 in 2009 to 300 or fewer in 2019 through 2021.

Chris Foreman is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8671, or cforeman@tribweb.com.

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