September 5, 2008

Two Dozen Students Sent to Wrong Schools in Penn Hills

By Tony LaRussa

Despite a major reorganization of its school buildings and the loss of dozens of teachers and administrators over the summer, the start of school for the nearly 5,000 students in the Penn Hills School District has been fairly smooth, officials say.

The district has, however, dealt with a number of glitches since the start of classes on Aug. 27.

Acting Superintendent Joseph Carroll this week was at a loss to explain how more than two dozen children in kindergarten through third grade were assigned to the wrong school building -- Dible Elementary on Jefferson Road instead of Washington Elementary on Main Street.

"It was painful for some, an arduous circumstance," said Carroll, who said the cause for the mix-up was "inexplicable."

By Tuesday, all the students were in the correct buildings, said Teresita Kolenchak, a district spokeswoman.

"We took steps to correct the situation as soon as it was brought to our attention," she said. "We are continuing to monitor the situation to ensure that no further issues of this sort arise."

The school board voted in May to close William Penn and Shenandoah elementary schools and convert Penn Hebron into an upper elementary school for fourth- and fifth-grade students.

Dible, Forbes and Washington are used for kindergarten through third grade. All the district's grade schools previously were kindergarten through fifth grade.

A number of district students couldn't begin classes on time because of a backlog in the registration process. The district added staff and increased hours to handle the overflow of appointments, said Kolenchak, who declined to say how many students missed the start of school.

Several parents have complained to school officials that the overhaul of the school bus routes has resulted in some children spending what they believe is an inordinate amount of time -- up to an hour in some cases -- riding buses.

Changes in the bus routes have created problems for the parents of children who attend day-care centers after school.

Penn Hills long has had a policy of busing children to local day- care centers. And although the service continues, the district has curtailed the practice of transporting students to facilities outside their attendance area.

District officials said the bus routes are being reviewed to determine whether adjustments can be made.

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