Now that the formal public input sessions have concluded, the Pittsburgh School Board Tuesday evening begins reviewing the comments about the proposed closing of seven city schools for the 2012-2013 academic year. When she unveiled her realignment plan in early August, Superintendent Linda Lane said, due in part to cuts in state funding, the projected deficit for 2012 is more than $60 million. Lane said cost-cutting measures have reduced the shortfall to $41.2 million, and the school closings will save another $7 million.
The final scheduled public forum was September 22 at the former Reizenstein Middle School. Lane said that one of the positive aspects of these sessions is that people aren't just saying, 'Don't make any changes.' Lane says, "They understand there is a problem. They understand we have to figure out a way to solve it. They have provided, 'Have you thought about doing it this way? Could you do it this way?' When people bring forward alternative proposals, some of them could work, and others can't."
The superintendent's plan involves the closing of Langley and Oliver High Schools, Fort Pitt Pre-K-5, Murray K-8, Northview Pre-K-8, Schaeffer K-8 and Stevens K-8.
Lane said they already have data concerning many of the suggestions they have heard. "We have to look at several things. Can it work in terms of capacity to do it that way?" Lane said. "We know that already. It's fairly easy for us to figure out. Will we save as much money if we do it that way, which is another issue. We're able to fairly quickly ascertain that."
Lane said it's the parents' job to advocate on behalf of their children, but most of those at the public sessions see the bigger picture. "We're not proposing these things just to make their life more difficult," Lane said. "We're proposing these things because we have to figure out some ways to consolidate some programs and reduce some of our expenditures."
The school board could decide to add more public input sessions before a vote on the closings, which would come by November 22 at the earliest.