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Community group questions North Allegheny enrollment projections

| Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012, 9:00 p.m.

A North Allegheny community group that's opposed to closing an elementary school said administrators' enrollment projections are flawed and leave the district vulnerable to increased class sizes.

Superintendent Raymond Gualtieri recommended during a school board meeting last week that the district close Peebles Elementary School in McCandless to save $850,000 and distribute those students among the remaining six elementary schools.

The meeting drew about 100 people — mostly parents opposed to the closure. A group of community members calling itself Save NA Schools presented the board with a 32-page report detailing its findings about the impact of closing Peebles.

“If an elementary school building is closed, current enrollment would account for 90 percent of the total available seats in the remaining buildings,” said Tara Fisher, 36, of McCandless, a member of Save NA Schools. “It limits the district's ability to keep class sizes below district guidelines.”

The report concludes that the district has a history of underestimating enrollment and that an enrollment increase could end up costing the district more money in the long run if a school is closed. The report also concludes that the district cannot guarantee the same level of education if a school is closed.

North Allegheny School Board President Maureen Grosheider said the board has not made any decisions and that she is reviewing the Save NA Schools report.

“I thought (the administration's recommendation) was indicative that the closure of a building is doable. The question still exists if that's what we want to move forward with,” Grosheider said.

Gualtieri told the board that the other schools have the capacity to accommodate Peebles' students and that class sizes would remain within district guidelines. He has said the district has a projected $10 million budget deficit for the 2013-14 school year, and that further spending cuts would require altering or eliminating programs.

The board could vote on Dec. 19 to schedule a public hearing on the closure, the next step in the process.

Bobby Kerlik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7886 or bkerlik@tribweb.com.

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