Questions Span Redistricting to Recent Property Purchases at Public Event

Since redistricting isn’t in the cards, will the planned renovations in the elementary schools, specifically O’hara, aim to equalize class size amongst all of the schools? Also, will it reduce overall overcrowding as populations increase?

Once we start creating magnet/immersion programs, we lose the neighborhood school feel that we moved here for. Is that a concern?

Seeing as how O’hara lost its outdoor basketball court for two years for the high school renovation, how will you keep the O’hara renovation from having a negative impact on the kid’s educational and recreational experience?

What is Riverfront 47?

What lessons have been learned from the very delayed high school renovation? With regard to future renovations?

How about making Kerr a STEM/magnet school?

In late 2015, the school district purchased two properties, 629 and 641 Field Club Road. Does the district have any plans for these properties? Are there plans to make Hartwood a part of DMS and add on to Kerr and go down to three elementary schools?

Community members’ anonymously submitted questions and other topics related to buildings and facilities were discussed at the District Forum public event on November 15, 2016. See the full minutes here for the responses.

DF’s discussion of the Fox Chapel Area School District’s current and future facility renovations was attended by more than 55 members of the FCASD community including parents of students, non-parent stakeholders as well as building principals, elementary and secondary curriculum leads, Ashley Nestor and Matt Harris, school board members—Sandra Garbisch, Somer Obernauer, and Joel Weinstein. The 9 a.m. meeting in the Fox Chapel High School LGI room included speakers Superintendent Dr. Gene Freeman, Assistant Superintendent Dr. Dave McCommons and Dan Breitkreutz, director of ancillary services, responsible for management of maintenance and custodial services for the six buildings that make up FCASD.

The day’s topic was selected by the DF Board and DF PTO Representatives explained DF President Elizabeth Klamut, “after receiving input in our spring survey and from questions and comments submitted on our website.” Founded in 1986, DF is an organization dedicated to promoting communication between parents, community members and the school district. Working with FCASD administration, DF put together the public event, which included a tour of renovated areas of the high school and a moderated Q & A session. Attendees were provided with this agenda.

Speaker Breitkreutz provided an update on current and planned renovations to the district’s six buildings. The $31 million high school renovation is nearing completion. According to Breitkreutz, “punch list items” remain that will be finished during the students’ upcoming holiday break. Upcoming construction and renovations to Dorseyville Middle School, O’Hara Elementary and Fairview Elementary were detailed. For a complete listing, please see the full minutes here. Breitkreutz reported that Hartwood Elementary is not scheduled for significant updates for 8 to 10 years. The future of Kerr, the district’s oldest building was noted. “Rather than building upgrades,” Breitkreutz said, “it may be more cost efficient to replace the entire building.”

The prioritization of construction projects, the construction process and tax implications were touched on by Freeman, who explained that the district utilizes a six-person Authority Board to help advise the district on planning and construction projects. Tax implications are not expected due to construction and renovation projects, according to Freeman.  “Pensions are the major player that increased over $4 million dollars this year. They are now 30 percent of the budget,” said Freeman. “Construction is not a factor in driving taxes up.”

The role quality schools play in property values was stressed by Freeman. In the past, he has cited that up to 30 percent of property value can be attributed to the school district. “We live in a digital learning environment that requires us to stay abreast of the latest technology and the necessary infrastructure.”

Under the previous Superintendent Anne Stephens construction plans at O’Hara included additional classrooms. “There is no need to expand O’hara as the numbers don’t indicate demand for additional classrooms at this time,” said Freeman.

Lastly, Freeman addressed redistricting elementary schools as a means to achieving socioeconomic balance and solving space imbalances within the buildings. “Redistricting will not be used by the FCASD board,” Freeman said. However, with a possible addition of up to 500 residential units in the Sharpsburg/Aspinwall area due to a project now in the planning stages, Freeman stressed, “A well-thought plan needs to be utilized to plan for the influx of students.” Concerns regarding socioeconomic balance within the elementary schools are another factor considered. One solution being explored by Freeman is to house a Spanish immersion program at Kerr that would rely on a lottery for placement. Immersion programs, according to Freeman, have been successful in his previous tenures.

High school principal Mike Hower and Breitkreutz led tour groups through the pool, cafeteria, library, courtyard, auditorium, entrance vestibule and office, as well as administrative offices. Back in the LGI Room, a moderated Q & A followed. Attendees were instructed to write topical questions on index cards that were collected prior to the tour. Anonymously submitted questions were read by Klamut and answered by Freeman or McCommons.

Klamut concluded the meeting by recognizing that there may be unanswered questions and inviting those questions to be submitted online at http://www.foxchapeldistrictforum.com or on Facebook. District Forum’s next public event will be held February 14, 2017 at 9 a.m. in the High School LGI room. The topic will be Computer Science Curriculum and Technology featuring Megan Cicconi, FCASD’s director of instructional and innovative leadership.

 

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