FAQ: Wilkinsburg School District / Pittsburgh Public School Partnership

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Why do we have to close our high school after 110 years of operation?

Enrollment decline over the past ten years, and more drastically, the past three years has       severely limited the programs and services that our students receive at the secondary level. The Board of Education has explored options that would provide our students with educational experiences similar to what their peers receive throughout Allegheny County, experiences that former Wilkinsburg graduates experienced prior to the enrollment decline. The Partnership with Pittsburgh will provide a quality education for our children in a fiscally responsible manner. Our proud community name – Wilkinsburg – will remain a staple through our elementary programs; and our secondary students, in our small community, will attend a larger educational system with more opportunity for growth.

If our Middle and High School students go to Pittsburgh now, are the elementary schools next to go?

Absolutely not. We will maintain our Wilkinsburg School District identity because the Board of Education has committed their efforts to insure that our elementary system will become an excellent feeder school for our educational Partner. A ten million dollar renovation project is scheduled to break ground in the spring, transforming our two elementary buildings into state-of- the-art buildings technologically with progressive security features. Additionally, the Board of Education plans to enhance the programming and support systems in our elementary division to insure our students receive a quality educational experience in preparation for their secondary school years. Our investment into safe, technologically-advanced, neighborhood schools will remain a center of pride for the Wilkinsburg community for many years to come.

When can the parents, students, and community as a whole expect to hear and/or comment about the next steps in this plan?

Over the next couple of months, sub-committees will be formed to work out the details of any and all transition plans. Stakeholders to include school leaders, public safety officials, parents, community leaders and experts who have helped with similar partnerships from both Wilkinsburg and Pittsburgh will be involved in every issue. We will share details of every aspect with the entire community as the plans materialize in the spring and early summer – well before school begins.

Westinghouse Academy has already received funding to engage the community to improve student outcomes. Those efforts will continue as Wilkinsburg students come aboard. Both Boards are committed to breaking the cycle of low achievement through innovation and collaboration. Overcoming the negative perceptions of low performance in both schools will be a challenge; a challenge, however, in which Westinghouse Academy has already made positive progress.

Why does the Wilkinsburg Board of Education believe that Wilkinsburg students will have a better educational opportunity at Westinghouse Academy?

The combination of the two student populations will enable all students to receive more access to educational opportunities, resources, and services. The opportunities far outnumber what our students receive now. They include Magnet schools, CTE programs, electives, advanced courses, extracurricular activities, athletics, and the arts. Both PPS and WSD recognize the fact that our two schools are under-achieving, and both Boards are committed to improving academic achievement. By combining our small resources with their abundance of resources, both student populations will receive services above and beyond what the WSD can currently offer.  Academic improvement at Westinghouse Academy was on the PPS priority list even before our talks began.  What we can assure our parents and students now is that resources and commitment are in place. PPS has received a School Improvement Grant, and some of that new funding has been targeted for Westinghouse Academy.

How are the Boards of Education and Administration addressing the issue of safety with the students?

Both PPS and WSD are very aware of the importance of student safety. The local Pittsburgh police force and PPS Westinghouse officials have developed a positive and productive relationship while addressing student safety at Westinghouse Academy; security inside the building is both professional and effective. Shortly after the Agreement is approved, details addressing safety plans relating to the Partnership will be developed. All stakeholders will have an opportunity for comment as we plan these strategies.

How do we know that Westinghouse students will welcome our students?

Once the decision is official, a committee will be formed to develop transitional activities      to bring the two student populations together.  These activities will occur over the next six months as we prepare for the 2016-17 school year.  The leadership at both PPS and WSD is committed to creating a “we” environment in which all students will blend as one student body.

Will our students be treated fairly in regards to the Magnet schools?

While our initial discussions have described a tier system for Magnet School applications, the PPS administration and Board of Education are committed to implementing a fair and equitable system for all students. As it stands now, once the WSD students are enrolled into the PPS system during the 2016-17 school year, they will have equal access for application into Magnet schools for the 2017-18 school year. Attending Westinghouse Academy for the initial year of the Partnership year will provide insight, to students and parents alike, about the programs and opportunities that exist throughout the PPS system. Students will experience all of the new programming that Westinghouse Academy has to offer for one school year before deciding on options available throughout the PPS system.

Will Wilkinsburg students be treated fairly in regards to the CTE programs?

PPS offers a majority of what is offered at Forbes Road, plus PPS has CTE programs that Forbes Road doesn’t have. Once the Agreement is approved, there will be orientations for students and parents as they schedule classes for the 2016-17 school year. The bottom line is that PPS provides a rich array of CTE programs that can prepare our students for meaningful, well-paying jobs once they graduate. WSD is still examining its membership options with Forbes Road CTC.

Will transportation be provided for our students who attend Westinghouse?

Yes, our secondary students, grades 7-12, will be provided with transportation to and from Westinghouse Academy. Arrangements will be in place for after-school activities as well. Details will be posted as we plan for the 2016-17 school year.

Is there a better partner for our students than Westinghouse Academy?

None that can offer the number of opportunities and services that PPS offers our students at the tuition rate that fits our ability to pay. It is a return on investment that is win-win for both schools. Our Partnership is with the PPS system and not just with Westinghouse Academy. Westinghouse is the local feeder school closest to us. It is where our students will attend if they do not choose a CTE program elsewhere or gain admission into a Magnet program. When you add up all that PPS can offer to our students, no, there is not a better Partner within a reasonable distance who could take on all of our students.

For Additional Information Regarding the PPS / WSD Partnership please go to
www.pps.k12.pa.us/FAQ

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