Tube City Almanac

September 26, 2011

New Schools Will Reduce District's Overhead


(Second of two parts. Part one is here.)

The new school proposed for the so-called Buck property between the city and White Oak is part of a multi-phase construction project designed to consolidate the McKeesport Area School District's five elementary schools into three elementary-intermediate schools (K-6), reducing space and operating costs while providing students with state-of-the-art facilities.

Ryan Pierce, principal architect for architecture firm J.C. Pierce, said last week that several alternatives have been considered, including building new structures, renovating existing facilities, or some combination of those.

The board concluded that reducing the district's number of schools by building a new facility on the Cornell site and on the Buck property and simultaneously upgrading facilities Francis McClure was most fiscally responsible plan that addressed all of the issues facing the district.

. . .

The proposed new elementary-intermediate school off Henderson Road, like the other two buildings, is designed around a "schools within a school" concept, with two separate wings and entrances for elementary (K-3) and intermediate (4-6) students and a shared gymnasium, cafeteria and library/media room.

Projected for completion in December 2013, the 118,665-square-foot building will house approximately 750 kindergarten through sixth grade students and utilize space more efficiently in order to accommodate the same number of students within less space.

. . .

Another goal of the modern, energy-efficient state-of-the-art building is to improve the image of the community, Pierce said.

"One thing we are going to finally see when this project comes to fruition is that the children of McKeesport Area School District will have the type of state-of-the-art facilities that they truly deserve to be in on a daily basis," School Superintendent Tim Gabauer said.

In addition, the district would reduce operating costs by consolidating to three buildings. According to Pierce, the district would spend a little more than $1 million per year to maintain five buildings, but a conservative estimate of the new three-building structure would be just over $530,000.

. . .

Critics of the new schools have pointed out that the student population in the McKeesport Area has declined from 5,200 to 3,800 students over the last 12 years. But school officials said that the student population is not declining at the rate predicted in a demographic study done six years ago by Shelby Stewman, a sociology professor at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.

According to Pierce, the actual numbers show 480 more students are enrolled for the 2011-2012 school year than was predicted in the 2005 study.

"The reality just doesn't jive with the rumor," Pierce said. "We are showing a much slower decline rate than that Dr. Stewman predicted."

White Oak Florist State Rep. Marc Gergely

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