Frazer's Pittsburgh Mills mall to host nursing school by October
The Citizens School of Nursing will be setting up shop at the Pittsburgh Mills mall in Frazer by October.
Bill Englert, president and CEO of Allegheny Valley Hospital in Harrison, said a grand opening will be held probably in mid-October.
The Frazer supervisors cleared the way for the nursing school to move into the mall by approving an amendment to the township zoning ordinance.
The school has been holding classes at the former Citizens General Hospital property in New Kensington since Allegheny Valley Hospital, part of the Allegheny Health Network, took it over around 1999.
“Right now, we are teaching classes in the old Citizens Hospital, and it was not built for classes,” Englert said.
He said the school will move into a 22,000-square-foot space in the northwest corner of the Mills mall that was formerly occupied by ITT Tech.
Englert said it’s a move that he has been considering for about two years.
“It (the mall) gives us the ability to expand and grow the program and not have the limitations at the other site,” he said.
He said it will not take much to convert the space to suit the nursing school’s needs.
“We’re ready to go, we know what we need to do,” Englert said. “It’s not a ton of money because it is pretty much space that is ready to go.”
The township supervisors welcomed the relocation of the nursing school.
“It’s a development that we can use, and it’s educating nurses,” supervisors Chairman Bill Creevey said.
The influx of nursing students could provide a boost to the restaurants and retail stores at the mall. The Mills has been struggling to maintain a retail base that attracts customers since it opened about 13 years ago as smaller retailers in particular have left, leaving behind empty storefronts.
The hope that the nursing students will bring more traffic and commerce to the mall is similar to what mall officials had for ITT, a vocational-technology training school, when it moved into the mall in 2010.
However, in September 2016, ITT closed 137 campuses in 38 states after running afoul of the U.S. Department of Education. The federal agency cut off federal aid for students to attend the school following numerous investigations into its operations.
Although the Citizens school is a commercial school just as ITT was, Township Secretary Lori Ziencik, who is also a township supervisor, said a zoning hearing and ordinance amendment was required. She said that was needed because ITT offered bachelor’s degree programs and the ordinance didn’t allow for diplomas, which Citizens students earn through two years of study.
Englert believes the future is bright for the Citizens School of Nursing, which graduated its 101st class of nurses in May.
He said nurses will be in increasing demand as forthcoming retirements thin the nursing ranks nationwide.
According to Englert, there is projected to be 21 percent decrease in nurses nationwide — a loss of about 612,000 nurses — by 2025.
He said the nursing school tries to have 100 students in each class with 60 to 85, on average, completing graduation requirements. Englert said the Citizens school has a good relationship with Penn State New Kensington, which attracts and guides many of the graduates into a bachelor’s degree program in nursing at Penn State.
“We have about 200 nursing students signed up right now,” Englert said.
Englert said the location is good for the school because most of its students come from the Alle-Kiski Valley and the mall provides easy access and a safe environment.
In addition, he said Allegheny Valley plans to use the space at night to hold continuing education classes for EMTs and paramedics.
Tom Yerace is a freelance writer.