Parents worried about historic school buildings
After celebrating a quarter century of growth in Woodland Hills schools, district officials are worried about the next 25 years.
That’s what lead Superintendent Roslynne Wilson to propose a building consolidation plan that she had hoped would save the district nearly $2.5 million a year.
The school board last night, though, voted down that proposal as well as a last-minute plan pitched by board member Colleen Filiak that targeted the same three schools — Shaffer Primary, Rankin Intermediate and East Junior High schools.
Their votes were in reaction to district taxpayers’ concerns with the closings.
In Turtle Creek, school board members and about 40 people from the community met last Thursday night at Palmieri Restaurant to discuss what the school district’s plan would mean to the community.
Some parents said the superintendent’s plan, in particular, would have lead to the closing and eventual abandonment of historic school buildings in some communities.
The key question for many district parents and others at the meeting was what the school district would do with buildings such as East Junior High School when it is closed. East Junior formerly was historic Turtle Creek High School, and a group has been working for about two years to prevent it from being razed or having its facade renovated.
“That building is very important to many of us,” said Robert Mock, of Turtle Creek, who has been trying to save the school.
“We believe that, if the building is closed, it should be repurposed. What we don’t want to happen is to have the building abandoned,” Mr. Mock said.
Dr. Wilson told the group that the next quarter century would see a much smaller school district, noting that a number of factors such as Act 72 and Act 1 restrictions, declining enrollment and potential teacher retirements would force the district to trim its size, especially the number of buildings it can maintain in tight budgetary times.
“This makes an opportune time to consolidate our buildings,” Dr. Wilson said .
That is why the school district has proposed a three-year building consolidation plan, which would see the closing of three schools in three years: Shaffer, Rankin Intermediate and East Junior High School .
Dr. Wilson said the district’s plan ultimately would save the district about $2.5 million from a reduction in property, personnel and benefits expenses. Without the implementation of the plan or some other cost-saving steps, the district will be faced with some very hard decisions, including possible teacher layoffs, the superintendent said.
School board President Cynthia Lowery said she supported the building consolidation plan because, if it is not implemented, the district would have to consider making cuts somewhere else in its $80 million budget.
“We have to stop deficit spending,” Ms. Lowery said. “We have tried to listen to the community about what they want to see, but there will never be a consensus on this issue.”
(Karamagi Rujumba can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1719. )