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Moving pupils first step to closing school in Woodland Hills

Pittsburgh Post GazetteBy M. Ferguson Tinsley,
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Thursday, March 15, 2007

Last night, the Woodland Hills school board was to decide whether to start the controversial process of closing East Junior High School.

In conjunction with that, they were beginning to think about remodeling West Junior in Swissvale and transferring up to 350 seventh- and eighth-graders from East to West by the 2008-2009 school year.

At an agenda meeting on March 7, Superintendent Roslynne Wilson said the closing would consolidate staff and administration and would ensure educational consistency. Further, joining the schools would foster a healthier sense of competition, which heretofore the small population at East has not known.

She also said the district would save $986,151.

Under the plan, about 750 pupils would attend West in 2008-09, according to state enrollment projections. West, about 126,500 square feet in dimension, was built in 1978. In the past, the school has housed more than 900 pupils.

Still, the new setup would require extensive renovations, especially to the cafeteria and other classrooms, she said. “It’s going to cost at least $5 million.”

The new configuration would keep seventh-graders on lower floors and eighth-graders on the upper, Dr. Wilson said. The only time seventh-graders would go upstairs would be to visit the library, she added.

Board members William Driscoll and Robert J. Tomasic had concerns about the plan.

Dr. Driscoll said he did not want to see each classroom stuffed with up to 28 pupils.

“I would like to know how many sections we’ll need,” he emphasized. “I did divide by 25,” Dr. Wilson replied.

Mr. Tomasic said he would not vote for any move unless West is equipped with video cameras throughout.

A West pupil who attended the agenda meeting said the school is already bursting at the seams.

“Right now we are standing outside for 15 to 20 minutes … in the morning … to go through the metal detectors,” said Amanda Stumme, 13, of Wilkins. “The halls are packed. It’s really hard to get from class to class. People are bumping into each other and people are fighting because they’re mad at each other about it.”

At the end of the discussion, Bob Mock, a Turtle Creek resident who has vociferously opposed closing East, asked the board: “What are you going to do with the closed building?” Mr. Mock is an alumnus of the old Turtle Creek High School, which became East Junior High.

State law requires the district to hold a public hearing at least three months before deciding to close the school. A notice of the hearing must be advertised 15 days before the hearing is held. The vote last night was a small first step in the process.

In other business, the board:

heard David Johnston, the pupil services director, present information on the Student Assistance Program.

The SAP is administered by the state Department of Education’s Division of Student and Safe School Services to assist school staff in identifying drug use or emotional and mental health troubles affecting student performance, according to the state Web site,

Mr. Johnson said 177 high school students were referred to SAP this school year.

By March 2, unacceptable behavior sparked 60 percent of referrals; 31 percent resulted from poor academics. Drug and alcohol abuse spawned 17 referrals. Ninety percent of the referrals were staff-initiated, 1 percent parent-sought.

unanimously voted to adopt a resolution asking voters in the May primary if they favor the “district imposing an additional 0.7 percent earned income tax.”

The increase would take the tax from 0.5 percent to 1.2 percent, which would fund a minimum homestead/farmstead exclusion of $405 for those who qualify.

Board Member Randy Lott was absent.

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