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Vote on closing Schenley High School delayed

By Bill Zlatos
Thursday, February 21, 2008

City schools Superintendent Mark Roosevelt said he delayed a vote on closing Schenley High School to give supporters time to raise money to fix it and to study if it would be cheaper in the long run to repair the structure.

“We think it is indeed worth the time and exploration,” Roosevelt told members of the school board at Wednesday’s agenda review meeting. “It does not imply a decision has been made either way.”

Roosevelt said the district is studying whether it would be more cost-effective to fix Schenley because of its sturdy construction compared to a more recent building that might not last as long.

The Oakland school has 1,086 students and was built in 1916. Roosevelt last year recommended closing Schenley because of the $64.3 million cost of renovating it and removing its asbestos.

The board yesterday discussed his proposal to make a couple of moves he believes necessary whether Schenley is permanently closed or temporarily shut down for repairs.

Those actions, to be voted on Feb. 27, involve moving Schenley students in grades 10 through 12 to Reizenstein in East Liberty in the fall. At the same time, the 174 students in the robotics technology program at Schenley would be relocated to Peabody High School in East Liberty.

Ninth-graders from Schenley’s feeder pattern would go to a University Prep School at Milliones in the Hill District. Eventually Milliones would expand to a grade 6-12 school.

Ninth-graders in the International Baccalaureate and international studies programs, both of which are at Schenley, would go to Frick School in Oakland.

Board member Sherry Hazuda questioned whether it would make more sense to keep Schenley open while fixing it as opposed to shutting it down.

Richard Fellers, chief operations officer, warned that fixing Schenley while leaving part of the school open could endanger students from falling plaster.

“We think it would be cost-effective, faster and removes the health risk” to close the building, he said.

At one point, Roosevelt and board member Mark Brentley became involved in a heated exchange when Brentley criticized the move of black students from the Hill District to Milliones.

“We take very seriously our obligation to better serve kids that the data tell us are not doing well off,” Roosevelt said.

Bill Zlatos can be reached at or 412-320-7828.

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