Historic designation sought for Turtle Creek school
Peter Rubash has a vested interest in Turtle Creek High School.
His grandfather helped dig the foundation for the building, now known as East Junior High School, 90 years ago, and most of his family graduated from the school.
“It’s a grand old building, very charming,” said Rubash, 47, of Churchill. “It clearly has historical significance.”
The Woodland Hills School District facility has been nominated to the National Register of Historic Places amid controversy over whether to keep the school open.
The district, which has undergone several evaluations on whether to consolidate schools, voted in March to begin the process of closing East Junior High School, citing the building’s age and declining enrollment.
“We’re very proud and happy for the Turtle Creek community to have a resource such as this,” Woodland Hills Superintendent Roslynne Wilson said. “We all feel extremely lucky to live in an area so rich in history.”
For a structure to be added to the registry, it must meet three criteria:
* It must be at least 50 years old.
* It should be associated with events of local or state historical significance.
* It must embody a type or school of architecture.
East Junior High School meets all of these criteria easily, said Jill Henkel, who advocated its addition to the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission’s Bureau for Historic Preservation.
The building, which reflects the classical revival style of architecture, is visible from any point in the borough, she said.
“East Junior High School has really become the central point of the town,” said Henkel, 46, of Turtle Creek. “Sometimes, you have to save something just because it’s worth saving, for a pure, unselfish reason.”
Two representatives from the school district, Wilson and school board president Cynthia Lowery, attended a March meeting with the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission’s Bureau for Historic Preservation. While Wilson did not address the committee, Lowery spoke against including the school on the registry. She said she spoke as a resident, not as president of the board.
“We went there to find out what was going on,” Lowery said. “I decided to speak. I spoke for myself.”
Wilson said that putting the school on the registry would not restrict what the district could do with the building.
Adding the school to any list of historic buildings is only a first step, Rubash said.
“It doesn’t really mean anything unless we have added funding because of it. Just because it’s named to the registry doesn’t mean it will be saved,” Rubash said. “That building needs a lot of love, and a lot of help.”
Daveen Rae Kurutz can be reached at email@example.com or 412-380-5627.