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Turtle Creek may lose junior high

| Thursday, March 15, 2007

Two months after rejecting a consolidation plan that would have closed three schools, the Woodland Hills School Board Wednesday night took steps to close East Junior High School in Turtle Creek.

The board cited declining enrollment and a deteriorating building for the move, which is expected to save the district about $748,000.

"The process will result in establishing the Woodland Hills Middle School for all seventh- and eighth-grade students in the district for the 2008-2009 school year," according to the motion that was approved by a 6-1 vote. Robert Tomasic cast the lone dissenting vote. Dr. Randy Lott and Fred Kuhn were absent.

Public hearings will be scheduled on the proposal. A final vote could come in August.

"It's not a done deal when you begin a process. We want to get the facts. If I don't like it, I am not going to vote for it," said board vice president Marilyn Messina.

If the school is closed, the nearly 290 seventh- and eighth-graders at East Junior High School would attend West Junior High School in Swissvale. Based on the district's enrollment this year, about 750 students would attend West Junior High School.

An architect will do a comparison of the costs of renovating West Junior High School and the cost of constructing a new building.

"The decision made by this board tonight in this economically challenging time will not be particularly popular or happy or easy," said Cindy Leone, of Edgewood, who has three children enrolled in the school district.

The proposal to close only East Junior High School arose after a comprehensive school consolidation plan designed by Superintendent Roslynne Wilson was rejected by a 6-3 vote at the Jan. 10 school board meeting because of significant opposition from parents.

The original plan would have closed Shaffer Primary School in Churchill, Rankin Intermediate School in Rankin and East Junior High School by the start of the 2009-10 school year. The closings would have begun with Shaffer Primary at the end of this school year.

Parents packed the January meeting, concerned that the closings were being rushed and that too many students would be in one school.

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