June 19, 2008

Officials Say Schenley Too Risky for Pupils

By Bill Zlatos

Pittsburgh Public Schools administrators warned the school board Wednesday evening of the dangers of keeping asbestos-ridden Schenley High School open.

Board member Randall Taylor asked during the agenda review meeting if Schenley would be unsafe it were still open in September.

"That could very well be yes," answered Paul Gill, the district's chief operations officer. "I think it's a dangerous situation. Our experts think it's a dangerous situation."

City schools Superintendent Mark Roosevelt has recommended closing the Oakland school because of the $76.2 million estimate for upgrading mechanical systems and removing asbestos and the subsequent danger of exposing students to the risk of falling plaster laden with asbestos.

Schenley students who would have been in grades 10-12 this fall would be moved to Reizenstein School in East Liberty.

Roosevelt told the board that it should not wait to close a school when it is found unsafe.

"That would be utterly irresponsible," he said. "You close a school when you are warned to."

District officials said they have not had any unsafe readings of the air quality in the building but that consultants from four firms all agree that it is too risky to leave students in Schenley.

The board will further discuss Schenley and other high school reform projects at 6 p.m. Monday at the Administration Building in Oakland.

The board yesterday approved by an 8-0 vote a contract that gives annual 3 percent pay increases to aides, school police, other support staff and technical-clerical workers.

Members of the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers had already approved the contract. It covers 750 aides, school police and other support staff and 56 technical-clerical workers.

The contract is retroactive to July 1, 2007, and runs through June 30, 2010.

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