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Pittsburgh school board votes to create new early ed center by way of consolidating Carrick schools

A doormat reading Pittsburgh Public Schools.
Katie Blackley
90.5 WESA

Board members at Pittsburgh Public Schools voted Wednesday night to consolidate two elementary school facilities in Carrick.

District superintendent Wayne Walters says moving students at Roosevelt Primary, which currently serves students in Pre-K through 2nd grade, into Roosevelt Intermediate — the building for the neighborhood’s third through fifth graders — will create space for the district to expand its early childhood offerings.

Walters said early childhood programs, in high demand and stretched thin across the state, are traditionally oversubscribed in Pittsburgh’s Hilltop communities.

“[This] gives some parents some additional options for early childhood programming and really starting off their educational experience with a bang,” Walters said.

Pre-K students previously served at Roosevelt, as well as those at nearby Pittsburgh Concord PreK-5, will be moved to the new early learning facility. Doing so will free up space at Concord, which Walters said was “getting pretty crowded.”

According to school utilization data obtained by WESA earlier this year, 68% of available instructional space at Concord is utilized. Both Roosevelt Primary and Intermediate, meanwhile, operate at less than 50% of their functional capacity.

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District leaders noted that this week’s decision remains separate from anticipated plans to reconfigure the district’s schools. Administrators presented the school board last month with a dozen recommendations for reshaping the district’s future.

Those included consolidating buildings, changing the district’s feeder patterns and returning some schools to a traditional middle school model.

“This has nothing to do with our proposed facilities utilization plan. This was just certainly a way for us to capitalize on an opportunity to provide better service to our students and families,” Walters said.

School leaders also maintain that the district will conduct an extensive community engagement process before voting on any potential consolidations. Walters told board members Wednesday that the district is waiting to finish formally executing its contract with Education Resource Strategies, Inc. (ERS) before it begins those efforts.

The contract with ERS, approved by the board last month, states that the firm will “review the proposed Facilities Utilization Plan, conduct a comprehensive analysis, engage with the community for feedback and guidance, and provide recommendations back to the District.”

“I ask for some patience and grace from the community as we begin this work,” Walters said. “And again, we invite you to be a part of this process, to be a part of transformation in the Pittsburgh Public Schools for the betterment of our students, families, and overall community.”

Administrators said last month that they would present any recommended school closures in August at the earliest. A final vote won’t come until December, after the district holds public hearings required by the state.

Jillian Forstadt is an education reporter at 90.5 WESA. Before moving to Pittsburgh, she covered affordable housing, homelessness and rural health care at WSKG Public Radio in Binghamton, New York. Her reporting has appeared on NPR’s Morning Edition.