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Baldwin Township charter school plans for enrollment boost

Stephanie Hacke | South Hills Record
Additional parking spaces are planned at Young Scholars of Western Pennsylvania Charter School in Baldwin Township to make way for new students.

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Wednesday, April 16, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
 

Adding 36 parking spaces at a multilingual, multicultural charter school in Baldwin Township will equip the school for a planned enrollment boost over the next six years.

Leaders of Young Scholars of Western Pennsylvania Charter School, located in the former Rolling Hills Manor senior care facility that once was a Baldwin-Whitehall elementary school, said they plan to add 140 students by the 2019-20 academic year. The school now serves 220 students from 17 school districts.

“We're going to add more kids,” said Melih Demirkan, president of the school's board of trustees.

More students means more parents visiting, and more staff members. That prompted school leaders to look at additional parking and reconfiguring bus areas in front of the school, Demirkan said.

The Baldwin Township planning commission last Thursday recommended that commissioners approve a revised conditional use application to allow the school to increase enrollment. The planning commission also recommended approval of a land use application that includes plans for more parking.

Baldwin Township commissioners will hold a public hearing at 7:30 p.m. May 6 at 10 Community Park Drive.

School leaders have planned to boost enrollment since Young Scholars opened in 2011 with 140 students, Demirkan said.

There are 160 students on a waiting list for the school, where students in kindergarten through seventh grades are taught both Spanish and Turkish and are educated with a global focus. An eighth-grade class will be added next year.

Baldwin Township commissioners initially granted a conditional use for the charter school to have 180 students, with the stipulation that if more students were added, new approvals would be needed, township solicitor Thomas McDermott said.

The Baldwin-Whitehall School Board in February 2010 denied a charter application for the school, but the state Department of Education granted it. Demirkan said the charter was modified to allow for 360 students.

About 60 percent of the students at Young Scholars reside in Pittsburgh Public Schools territory, with the second-largest student group coming from Baldwin-Whitehall, Demirkan said.

The planning commission considered how the increase in students and additional parking will affect nearby residents.

About 21 of the 39 current parking spaces at the school are used on a given day, said Gregory Schrock, a civil engineer with L.R. Kimball. With the planned enrollment increase, school officials “wanted to add as many parking spaces as possible to the site plan to accommodate the growth,” he said.

Parking will be increased to 75 spaces under the new plan, and a bus route will be added for easier turning on the property, he said. McDermott said a plan still is needed for how the school will handle parking during special events.

Brady Byrd, whose home abuts the school property, said there is less congestion with buses and cars this year. People headed to the school only park in front of his home “every once in a while” now, he said.

“You live in the big city, you're going to have people parking in front of your home,” Byrd said.

Stephanie Hacke is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5818 or shacke@tribweb.com.

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