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Duquesne district seeks grade change

| Friday, April 20, 2012

Duquesne City School officials are seeking approval from the state to alter the educational program in an attempt to keep the district operating for at least one more year.

The three members of the state-appointed board of control unanimously authorized Superintendent Paul Rach on Thursday to request an OK from the Pennsylvania Department of Education to designate grades 7-8 as junior high grades for the 2012-13 school year. The district now designates grades K-8 as elementary.

The change would allow the district to send tuition students in grades 7-8 to other districts.

"We don't want parents to feel like they're in limbo," said Francis Barnes, board of control chairman. "We want to give them the opportunity to contemplate what they want to do, whether they continue in Duquesne or elect to take their students to charter school."

The state would decide which school students attend and tuition rates. Carolyn Dumaresq, deputy secretary for elementary and secondary education, said the state recommends East Allegheny and West Mifflin. Duquesne students in grades 9-12 have attended those schools since 2007.

Stan Whiteman, president of the Duquesne Education Association, said he expects the change would result in up to seven teacher furloughs.

"Why not look for the money to fund this district?" Whiteman asked to applause from the crowd at the meeting.

Since 2000, a state-appointed board has managed the district, which has struggled financially and academically. In October, the board sent a letter to parents stating it was unlikely Duquesne would continue to function in its current form beyond the 2011-12 school year.

Last week, West Mifflin Area school officials announced plans to pursue legal action should the state decide the district will receive elementary and middle school students from Duquesne.

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