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East Allegheny, West Mifflin Area prepare for Duquesne transfers

| Thursday, July 12, 2012, 7:21 a.m.

At least 16 of the 85 seventh- and eighth-graders who would have attended class next year at Duquesne Education Center instead will be transferred to Logan Middle School in the East Allegheny district.

"We have been advised by the Pennsylvania Department of Education that we would be getting eight seventh-graders and eight eighth-graders," East Allegheny superintendent Roger A. D'Emidio said Wednesday.

Meanwhile, West Mifflin Area School District is preparing for at least 25 seventh-graders and 15 eighth-graders from Duquesne for its middle school on the high school campus along Commonwealth Avenue.

"To my understanding, we have about 20 of those students who still are unregistered at either West Mifflin or East Allegheny," said West Mifflin Area superintendent Daniel Castagna. "It depends on how many of those students we receive."

Both superintendents received letters from state education secretary Ronald J. Tomalis that were made public Tuesday by the state Department of Education.

"I have designated the same two school districts to receive Duquesne's junior high school students that currently receive Duquesne's senior high school students," Tomalis wrote.

Castagna said the situation is "pretty consistent" with what his district had been told by local legislators.

"It is nice to have some finality to the situation that we have been hearing about since September of 2011," the West Mifflin Area superintendent said. "We can now plan for the 2012-13 school year."

East Allegheny had been preparing since spring under the assumption it would receive Duquesne students.

"We are currently making arrangements to register the students and provide the necessary information needed to make their transition to East Allegheny a good experience," D'Emidio said.

Castagna said things that normally would have been resolved in May still are unresolved. He said he is meeting with the middle school administration to plan registration and orientation events.

For both West Mifflin Area and East Allegheny, it will be a matter of bringing Duquesne youngsters into schools that will accommodate grades 4-8. Both districts are making plans to separate students in grades 4-6 from those in grades 7-8.

In West Mifflin Area, students in grades 4-6 will arrive at the middle school a half hour later and leave a half hour later than students in grades 7-8.

Castagna said West Mifflin Area was seeking to point dollars "toward instruction and not toward buildings" when the district closed New England Elementary School at the end of the 2011-12 academic year.

In all, West Mifflin Area will have 1,100 to 1,200 students in its middle school. About half that number will attend Logan Middle School.

West Mifflin Area also had issues with state funding. Castagna did not focus on the tuition his district will receive for Duquesne students, which is $10,000 per student, with $500 more per student in grades 7-9 in the next two years.

Instead, he expressed continued frustration with the way Harrisburg funds charter schools.

He said all students in public schools, regular or special education, get the same rate as do regular students in charter schools, whether they are brick and mortar buildings, such as Propel, or cyber schools.

However, Castagna said, charter schools get $29,500 for each special education student. He predicted public schools will continue to suffer as a result.

"We are in tough financial times, as is everyone in public education right now," Castagna said. "In the next five to 10 years you will see a lot more consolidation of public school districts."

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