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Old 04-05-2024, 07:55 AM
 
Location: Pittsburgh, PA (Morningside)
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Hello all,

Wednesday night, the PPS superintendent had a public meeting outlining the beginning of plans to reconfigure the city's school systems. Despite what was feared, this did not result in a list of schools closed, instead coming up with a framework to alter the school district in time for the 2025-2026 school year.

(Link to the full report here).

The most notable aspect of the report is the district appears to be committed to transitioning to using stand-alone middle schools everywhere. This is a big deal. There are 11 different K-8 schools scattered across the district - most of which are neighborhood schools. In addition, the three most popular magnet middle schools (CAPA, Sci-Tech, and Obama) are currently within 6-12 buildings (I believe Milliones/UPrep is also in the Hill District).

The District seems to have committed to hive all of the middle grades off into dedicated facilities. What this almost certainly means, given footprints will also be consolidated, is some K-8 schools will become dedicated elementary schools, and some will house dedicated middle schools.

In addition, there are big planned changes to how the magnet system operates. The report references standardizing admissions, which presumably means doing away with the special process CAPA uses for admissions. It also seems to allude to retiring unpopular programs and increasing slots at popular ones/creating some new magnet schools. Because of these changes, the regular timetable for magnet admissions has been delayed for the next academic year, with lottery results not being released until March 2025.

This personally impacts me a great deal. My son is finishing up fourth grade at Dilworth (still probably the top magnet elementary in the district) and needs to apply for middle schools next year. Given his interests, Sci-tech was absolutely #1. The stand-alone STEM magnet on the North Side was probably #2, though we've struggled to find a third option. I've been sort of relieved that Sunnyside K-8 has improved, and is now a decent school, since it's our neighborhood option and could work as a school of last resort in the event he didn't get in anywhere. Now all of this is thrown into doubt. We literally do not know what middle schools will exist for him in 6th grade, what programs they have, and won't be able to compare any metrics because they'll be entirely new schools.

I also do have a minor fear for my daughter. She is at Obama within the Mandarin program, finishing up 9th grade. She's doing fine, but the program as a whole was largely a failure. She started at Linden, which originally was a German magnet, then a German/Mandarin magnet which had 400 students when she started Kindergarten, and is now down to around 130 students. Only five kids are in her Mandarin class now. She's doing well (gets straight A's every single quarter), and been prepping for a summer trip to China next year that we've paid a lot into already, but I'm wondering if the Mandarin program is endangered due to its low utilization.

Anyway, interesting times to be in the district.

Last edited by eschaton; 04-05-2024 at 08:27 AM..
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Old 04-05-2024, 08:13 AM
 
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Good summary. I listened to the meeting also. My kid is in a K-8 and was hoping they could stay through 8th. I think it's actually a great model.

Middle school is a tough time, as the superintendent noted, and I think it's better for kids to stay in a community that has known them since they were little. Who cares if they would have a wider variety of classes in a separate 6-8. I personally switched from a K-5 to 6-8 for middle, and it was not great.

I hope they will truly listen to parent input. Or else this may have the effect of driving more parents and kids to private/charter/move, which is the opposite of what we want. Overall we are really happy in PPS, like the new superintendent, and hope to stay.
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Old 04-05-2024, 09:53 AM
 
Location: Pittsburgh, PA (Morningside)
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I mean, some of the changes may be positive. For Sci-Tech 46 kids were waitlisted, for example, this year. Considering 6th grade currently has 54 students, this means demand for the program is about twice capacity! If they could move into a new facility which allows for a 6th grade with more like 100 students, then there wouldn't be a waitlist any longer, and it could help retain students within the district.

I also wonder how things are going to get mixed up across the East End in general to create a dedicated middle school. I took a look at the enrollment numbers, and this is my best guess:

Lower East End (Allderdice Feeder):

The district has for awhile wanted to convert Minadao into a dedicated middle school, shuffling the existing K-5 students into the well-performing Colfax. Doing this alone results in Colfax being at 84% capacity (similar to today) and the new middle school being at 62% capacity (much better than Minadao's 35% capacity now). This is presuming Sterrett is also retired as a middle school, which seems likely, given currently it's the feeder for Minadao along with having a small Classical magnet program (dunno where these magnet kids will go - my guess is feeding them into Obama's IB program).

The hard issue is what they do with Greenfield K-8 and Mifflin K-8 (which is in Lincoln Place, but feeds into Allderdice, and contains some of Hazelwood). These two schools have about 200 middle school kids. They could feed into Minadao, which would result in an 89% capacity school, which seems doable by the city's metrics. But then both of the resulting K-5 schools would be under enrolled. I think it's plausible you could expand the Greenfield K-5 feeder a bit more (say into North Oakland, or parts of Squirrel Hill or Shadyside), but Lincoln Place is just too far removed from anything to not have its own local elementary school.

There's also the possibility that the Allderdice feeder gets messed with a bit. There remain weird enclaves of Homewood that go to Allderdice instead of Westinghouse due to having pull decades back. Westinghouse has much lower enrollment (and will be even lower when the middle school is hived off, as we'll discuss below). Considering Allderdice is by far the best neighborhood HS within the district, and Westinghouse is one of the worst, any expansion would be pretty fraught.

Upper East End (Westinghouse Feeder):

Currently there are five dedicated neighborhood K-5 schools: Arsenal, Faison, Fulton, Lincoln, Sunnyside, and Woolslair. None of these are incredibly under-enrolled (Lincoln - in Larimer - is the worst, at 42% enrollment). There's also the K-5 side of Sunnyside. Middle-class families in the Upper East End don't really use the neighborhood schools, save for Woolslair, Sunnyside, and the French magnet program at Fulton.

The Upper East End lacks a dedicated middle school. Sunnyside has a small 6-8 program (one per grade), Arsenal has a complete, but highly under-enrolled middle school (27% full), and about 1/3rd of Westinghouse is in the middle grades.

A no-brainer at first glance would be to simply use the existing Arsenal 6-8, converting it into a dedicated middle school for the entire upper east end, which would be at 75% capacity. However, it's on the far edge of the Upper East End. Doing something like converting Lincoln into a middle school may work better, and would result in a school at 97% capacity. Plus it frees up part of the Arsenal complex - and frankly in the past, the District has liked mothballing schools in gentrifying areas because it can sell the buildings for a profit.

One or more elementary schools is likely to close as well. Based upon enrollment and performance, my guess is it will be Lincoln. It would be easy to split the feeder between Faison and Fulton, with both schools in the range of 75%-80% full. But further consolidation is possible. For example, if Sunnyside transforms into a K-5, all of Arsenal K-5 could fit in the school, with room to spare (89% capacity) allowing the district to sell the entire Arsenal complex to a private developer. That just leaves the question of Woolslair K-5. Given it's at 56% capacity, the school's reputation is steadily increasing, I think it escapes unscathed, but I wouldn't be surprised if the feeder pattern is further expanded.

The issue of what to do with Westinghouse, though, is a pickle. Taking out the middle school, it would only be at 35% capacity. Westinghouse needs more students. Yet, to put it bluntly, it's simply not a school where white parents will enroll their kids if it's their assigned neighborhood school. So the district is left with really bad options here, like expanding it to take in more of the black East End (like the little enclaves of Homewood and Lincoln-Lemington-Belmar which go to Alderdice) which reinforces school segregation. Or just close the school and have all these kids go to Obama, on a "non-magnet" side - which IMHO is a bad idea.

Magnets:

There's a totally different set of calculations here, but to go over briefly.

Dilworth is a successful K-5 school, and will be left untouched.

Liberty's Spanish magnet has okay enrollment (55%) and I don't expect it to be messed with, though smaller language programs that feed into Obama could be merged into it. I could see Fulton's French program ending up here, or perhaps the Mandarin program at Linden (Linden is at 27% capacity, and has failed as a school, sad as it is to say, since my daughter is an alum).

Montessori's program will stay open, but the building has millions worth of asbestos remediation the district can't pay for. They will sell it to an outside developer, and move it elsewhere (maybe into Sterrett, perhaps into another empty East End school like Linden).

Woolslair's STEAM magnet program is secure, IMHO. I expect the district to promote it more to filter into STEAM middle schools.

Looking at middle schools, Sterrett's Classical Academy is going elsewhere. I'm not sure the logical place to stick it within the East End unless it merges with Obama's 6-9 program.

And yeah, they need to find middle schools for CAPA, Sci-Tech, and Obama, which will be difficult, considering they want footprint consolidation. Makes me think that a lot of programs outside of the East End (Allegheny Traditional Academy, Classical Academy, the STEAM program at Schiller) may get merged in as well.
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Old 04-05-2024, 02:21 PM
 
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Great analysis! The percentages would change of course, if parents do not choose to have their kids flow into the suggested paths.

Given the aggressive timeline, I think they must have a plan already, and will use the consultant to get some public feedback and maybe modify a bit, before releasing it in August.

I wonder how the transportation shortage feeds into their plan. For instance, maybe they will limit the magnets to geographic areas, at least for younger grades who wouldn’t get a PRT pass.
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Old 04-10-2024, 02:06 PM
 
Location: Pittsburgh, PA (Morningside)
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I've been diving deeper into the numbers, and I don't see how they meet their targets here.

Let's step back and look at high schools. I'm not going to consider CAPA/Obama/Sci-Tech, because all these schools are all magnet schools. They have their own issues - mainly that they're 6-12 schools, and the district wants to shift to standalone middle schools. I think this will help Sci-Tech - it's filled to the bursting (97% enrolled) has a huge wait list. Turning it into a dedicated middle school, and finding an empty high school somewhere else for 9-12, is a no-brainer. But CAPA and Obama will have very empty buildings if the middle school gets hived off somewhere, requiring a pretty rapid ramping up of their magnet programs.

But yeah, neighborhood schools:

Allderdice: Currently overenrolled with 1,374 students, and 1,208 seats. All of the kids are in grades 9-12, though around 600 of them are in a pre-engineering magnet program which accepts kids from anywhere in the district. Dice could either futz with the feeder (which has issues, as I noted, as it would mostly kick kids into Westinghouse), or the district could fold the Engineering magnet program into whatever they do with sci-tech (nearly doubling the size of the high school).

Westinghouse: Big issues here. School is only 51% full, but that includes middle grades. If they're shunted out, it's woefully under-enrolled. If adding kids from Allderdice (or shutting down Westinghouse entirely and sending the kids to Dice) isn't possible, there's just one option...

Milliones/UPrep: Similar to Westinghouse, but even worse. Currently the school has just 292 students in a building that can house 1,116 -26% full. But it's a 6-12 school, and about 67 of those kids are in middle grades, and should go elsewhere. That probably means outside the Hill District, as that's not enough kids to warrant a middle school anywhere. Regardless, only 225 kids, with about 30 part of a little magnet program. This school cannot stay open - the Hill District kids have to go somewhere else. All the way to Westinghouse? Long bus ride, and historically Homewood/the Hill District have not gotten along well? Alderdice? Brashear? Something has to happen here.

Perry: At least it's a 9-12 school, but Perry has only 355 kids, with a good deal of them (perhaps 160 or so) part of either the STEAM or JROTC magnet. Meaning only about 200 high-school age kids go to the neighborhood feeder. There simply aren't enough kids within the neighborhood school system left to warrant a high school on the North Side. They gotta go...somewhere.


Brashear: Probably the only neighborhood HS other than Allderdice that looks 100% safe to me. It can hold up to 2,198, though it currently has only 966 students. Fold in Carrick HS, and the school rises to 73% full. Only question in my mind is what they'd want to do with the little computer science magnet here - keep it as is, or move to wherever Sci-Tech's HS goes?

Carrick: Currently 53% full, with 593 students, but space for 1,128. Again, since it's not far from Brashear, the schools, logically, should merge.

So yeah, to put it succinctly: Carrick will close, Brashear and Allderdice will survive, and the district has a mess figuring out what to do with Perry, Milliones, and Westinghouse. Not considering transportation logistics, all three of the latter have a combined enrollment of 1,037, which is a good size for a high school. They all should be combined - probably in the Milliones building, as it's the most centrally located. But having everyone from the entire North Side, the greater Hill District, and the Upper East End going to one high school - that may be a bridge too far.
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Old 04-18-2024, 09:23 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by eschaton View Post

So yeah, to put it succinctly: Carrick will close, Brashear and Allderdice will survive, and the district has a mess figuring out what to do with Perry, Milliones, and Westinghouse. Not considering transportation logistics, all three of the latter have a combined enrollment of 1,037, which is a good size for a high school. They all should be combined - probably in the Milliones building, as it's the most centrally located. But having everyone from the entire North Side, the greater Hill District, and the Upper East End going to one high school - that may be a bridge too far.
I have a son who will be starting PPS in a few years so I've been looking for info about this too. I did notice that in the PPS presentation they called out Facility Condition Index (FCI) and Educational Adequacy Index (EAI). I found this presentation from 2021 that includes numbers for each school for both. It says that a low FCI is good and a high EAI is good.
https://www.pghschools.org/cms/lib/P...g_01.12.21.pdf

Something I found interesting is comparing the high schools you get the following:
EAI FCI
Carrick 69% 21%
Milliones 58% 25%
Allderdice 56% 59%
Brashear 47% 39%
Westinghouse 47% 45%
Perry 46% 39%

This would suggest that Brashear would get folded into Carrick instead and that Milliones is the best of the 3 schools left over. I agree that Allderdice is safe, no matter the FCI score.

Obviously I'm looking at the grade school data too, there is just a lot more of them so its harder to compare...

Last edited by ESPNick; 04-18-2024 at 09:37 AM..
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Old 04-18-2024, 10:50 AM
 
Location: Pittsburgh, PA (Morningside)
14,353 posts, read 17,034,992 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ESPNick View Post
I have a son who will be starting PPS in a few years so I've been looking for info about this too. I did notice that in the PPS presentation they called out Facility Condition Index (FCI) and Educational Adequacy Index (EAI). I found this presentation from 2021 that includes numbers for each school for both. It says that a low FCI is good and a high EAI is good.
https://www.pghschools.org/cms/lib/P...g_01.12.21.pdf

Something I found interesting is comparing the high schools you get the following:
EAI FCI
Carrick 69% 21%
Milliones 58% 25%
Allderdice 56% 59%
Brashear 47% 39%
Westinghouse 47% 45%
Perry 46% 39%

This would suggest that Brashear would get folded into Carrick instead and that Milliones is the best of the 3 schools left over. I agree that Allderdice is safe, no matter the FCI score.

Obviously I'm looking at the grade school data too, there is just a lot more of them so its harder to compare...
I do think there are arguments to be made that Carrick is a "better" school than Brashear. That said, Brashear is a much larger school, with about twice the capacity. There's room for all of Carrick's students in Brashear, but not the inverse. This means if they closed Brashear, they'd have to split the school up, with some neighborhoods going into Carrick and others elsewhere (Milliones?).
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Old 04-19-2024, 08:36 AM
 
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The 412justice group did a right to know request and has posted some of that data on their site. They also have talking points against school consolidation.

One point is that when PPS closed schools in Hazelwood, a charter school Propel swooped in and opened up a school. Kids chose that closer school vs being bussed further to a PPS school. Now PPS has to pay Propel a lot of charter money for those kids.

I wonder if there are creative ways to keep schools open with smaller populations, by sectioning off the building and renting excess space to daycares, pediatricians, etc.

As a parent, having my kid close is a high priority, for practical reasons. If they get sick during the day, so much easier to pick them up locally vs traveling across the city, same for after school activities. So I understand the parents who chose the closer charter.

Still unsure how consolidation, breaking up neighborhood K8 schools, and the longer travel for those kids will work with the bus driver shortage.
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Old 04-22-2024, 10:29 AM
 
6,358 posts, read 5,056,374 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by elm432 View Post
....

I wonder if there are creative ways to keep schools open with smaller populations, by sectioning off the building and renting excess space to daycares, pediatricians, etc.

As a parent, having my kid close is a high priority, for practical reasons...

Still unsure how consolidation, breaking up neighborhood K8 schools, and the longer travel for those kids will work with the bus driver shortage.


could public schools be housed within rentable space? for example, the library at hazelwood?

or, space in a downtown building, many of which have increasing vacancies. of course there is a lot to consider (proper lighting, security, etc.) but could THAT (temporary, rentable space) become a viable option?
id think long term - cheaper for building maintenance possibly.
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Old 04-22-2024, 11:03 AM
 
Location: Pittsburgh, PA (Morningside)
14,353 posts, read 17,034,992 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by szug-bot View Post
could public schools be housed within rentable space? for example, the library at hazelwood?

or, space in a downtown building, many of which have increasing vacancies. of course there is a lot to consider (proper lighting, security, etc.) but could THAT (temporary, rentable space) become a viable option?
id think long term - cheaper for building maintenance possibly.
PPS has plenty of school buildings - more than they know what to do with. The issue is that it still has many shuttered schools it's been unable to sell, and a further round of closures will add to it.

There are a few exceptions - as I noted, Arsenal is on valuable property that the District would get good money for. However, most schools are worthless to outside buyers, unless purchased by a charter (which adds to the issues PPS is having with charter enrollment) or maybe converted to apartments (which, in most areas, will require PFHA funding, meaning it can linger for years, like Gladstone or Horace Mann).

PPS could also go with a "return first" policy when it comes to closing/selling schools. However, this will result in an overwhelming percentage of students from nicer areas being bussed into bad neighborhoods, which won't help the district in the longer run, even if it provides for the most immediate cash infusion.
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