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Single-gender academies plan on hold

| Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Pittsburgh Public Schools administration wants to further review its proposal to open a watered-down version of the single-gender academies originally slated for Westinghouse High School this fall.

Superintendent Linda Lane pulled the plan from the school board's agenda on Wednesday night.

"We want to make sure we've maximized the program at Westinghouse and ensure we have balanced enrollment," she said.

Because of a lack of interest from parents in the academies, Lane this month recommended that the district offer coed classes at Westinghouse along with a magnet program for students who want same-sex core courses.

Lane said board members want to try to offer single-gender electives as well.

The coed option allows the district to send East End students whose parents did not choose a school for their child to Westinghouse. Federal law prevents the district from forcing students into single-gender classes.

Otherwise, University Prep 6-12 at Milliones in the Hill District became the default school. About 1,000 students would have gone there this fall, well over its capacity of about 800.

Lane said one reason for the additional review is so the district can verify that the plan would balance enrollment to about 740 students at each school.

About 400 students had signed up for the single-gender academies at Westinghouse in Homewood, 300 shy of what the district wanted.

Reggie Bridges, president of the Westinghouse Alumni Association board of directors, said a single-gender option at Westinghouse was not enticing enough to attract students from all over the city.

"Single gender: That's a place where you're parents send you because you're cutting up as a kid," he said.

The board will discuss the proposal at a meeting at 6 p.m. Monday. Lane said a special meeting is likely to be held in May to vote on a revised East End plan.

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