Opponents to Closing Pitcairn Elementary School State Case
Using a range of emotional and economic arguments, dozens opposed to the proposed closing of Pitcairn Elementary School stated their case Tuesday night during a public hearing hosted by the Gateway School District.
Standing before the school board and other district officials, the majority of speakers testified to the school’s significance to community vitality. Rollo Vecchio, president of Pitcairn council, said a condition of the original merger of the two districts serving Monroeville and Pitcairn in the 1950s was that a school building always remain in Pitcairn.
“It’s part of our community that has served its meaning well and I’m asking you to keep it up … It’s the centerpiece of our community and I hope it can stay that way,” he said.
The school district is considering closing Pitcairn Elementary as part of a realignment plan that could eliminate all elementary buildings in favor of a new K-4 building on the Gateway Campus.
Mr. Vecchio dismissed a finding by consulting firm Education Management Group LLC that the school faces threat of flooding from Dirty Camp Creek, stating that a project redirecting the stream is nearly 90 percent complete.
Many more speakers rejected aspects of the report, including no mention of how much money the district would save through the closure and a lack of plans to close any elementary school other than Pitcairn.
“There has been no positive plan for maintaining Pitcairn Elementary School presented by the school board. Overall, the conclusions of EMG were always prejudiced and slanted, targeting Pitcairn Elementary School time and time again for closure,” said Betsy Stevick, president of the Pitcairn High School Alumni Association.
Some speakers offered alternatives to the plan to consolidate schools. Speaker Fred Mendicina suggested closing University Park Elementary and distributing its students throughout the remaining schools to increase all of the buildings’ enrollment. Speaker Leeann Pruss suggested the district extend elementary schools to fifth grade and merge schools for grades 6-8.
“It would solve the issues of those wanting more students on Gateway Campus, it would give you [Gateway Middle School] located near the parkway and turnpike that could potentially sell for a lot more than Pitcairn Elementary, it would eliminate a transition for all students instead of increasing transitions for Pitcairn students, and it gives you a lot more future benefits than closing one elementary and leaving all others operating under capacity,” she said.
District officials declined comment following the meeting, but some of those who attended said they were encouraged by board members’ actions during the meeting.
“We don’t know, but it looked like they were paying attention,” Ms. Pruss said.
“They’re going to have to go home and digest the information,” Ms. Stevick said.
Either way, Ms. Pruss said, this isn’t the last the board has heard from them.
“They have 90 days, we’re not going to leave them alone, we’re not going to let it drop,” she said.