State education officials wired Wilkinsburg School District $3 million in emergency funding last week to aid in middle and high school students transitioning to Pittsburgh Public Schools this fall.
The cash came from a provision of the new school funding formula signed into law Friday by Gov. Tom Wolf. The district will have to submit monthly budgets for a year citing how they spent every cent. It's only available for transition programs and hiring more teachers for Westinghouse Academy in Homewood, acting Wilkinsburg Superintendent John Frombach said.
“Guidance counselors (and) social workers,” he said. “There will be transportation costs involved for the school district. There will be costs for shutting down the Wilkinsburg High School.”
Nearly 200 Wilkinsburg students will transfer to Westinghouse next year following a decision by the school board in September to close after years of declining enrollment. The school permanently closed to public school students Friday following graduation.
The money will also retroactively pay for student support programs and field trips that began earlier this year, Frombach said, and provide transportation to the Westinghouse during the 2016-17 school year.
The money cannot be used to pay the $8,000 per-student, per-year tuition Wilkinsburg owes PPS. That money, Frombach said, will come from the district’s general budget.
An independent audit earlier this year found the school district had accumulated a $1.8 million deficit for the 2013-14 and 2014-15 school years.
But with the school closing and the district not filling vacant staff positions, Frombach said he expects a surplus for the 2015-16 school year. He said he expects to erase the deficit in two years.
Chester Upland School District in Delaware County also received $12 million in emergency funding from the school funding formula, now dubbed Act 35. The legislation states that amount and the $3 million for Wilkinsburg will be added retroactively to the districts’ base funding formula in 2015-16 and each year thereafter.