Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Parents, Students to Address School Reform Plan

A community meeting in Homewood tonight will address Pittsburgh Public Schools’ plan to reconfigure high schools in the East End.

Students and parents will have the opportunity to ask questions about the school reformation after a brief presentation by school district staff. Pittsburgh’s School Board will take the comments and questions into consideration when voting on the reconfiguration plan, called “Excel 9-12.”

If adopted, the proposal would close East Liberty’s Peabody High School. The displaced Peabody students would be relocated to either University Prep High School or to one of two single-gender, 6th-12th grade academies housed in Homewood’s Westinghouse High School. The international studies magnet school, Pittsburgh Obama, would be relocated to the former Peabody building.

Assistant Superintendent for Secondary Schools Derrick Lopez says federal regulations mandate that public school students have a choice between co-educational and single-gender schools.

“We’re going to give kids the opportunity to choose, should the board adopt this plan, during their 8th grade year and during their 6th grade years. Next year, for example, at Peabody, we’re going to have opportunities for students at the school to select whether they go to the University Prep school or whether they go to the Westinghouse academies in 2011-12. We will talk with every single student,” says Lopez.

Executive Director of A+ Schools Carey Harris says her group is “agnostic” about the proposed single-gender academies at this point. Harris says the Excel plan is not just about the East End.

“We actually think the plan we saw impacts the whole district because it includes plans for Oliver. It would be sort of a dropout recovery program, so I believe it would be a place for students who had dropped out to get their degree,” says Harris.

Harris says she’s concerned that closing Peabody would divert too many students to schools like University Prep, but Lopez says the magnet schools are currently under-populated and even a large influx would not overburden them.

Lopez says the district doesn’t know yet what would be done with the former Obama school building.

The community meeting will begin at 5:30 tonight at the Westinghouse High School Library in Homewood.

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