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Highlands School District shuffles deck again |

Highlands School District shuffles deck again

Tom Yerace
| Thursday, June 16, 2011 12:00 a.m

Heights Elementary would have at least one kindergarten class in 2011-12 but wouldn’t house administrative offices or Highlands School District’s cyber school under the latest realignment proposal.

Superintendent Joseph Latess said the proposal is expected to go up for a vote by the board on Monday.

All students in kindergarten through second grade in the district would be split between Fairmount Elementary in Brackenridge and Fawn Elementary in Fawn, except for about 20 children in the lone kindergarten class at Heights.

All students in grades 3 through 5 would be taught at Tarentum’s Grandview Elementary.

The Heights building would house the Head Start, Pre-K Counts program and the YMCA before- and after-school programs.

It wouldn’t house the Highlands Virtual Academy, the district’s cyber school, or the administration’s offices as originally planned.

Instead, both would be housed in Highlands High School in Harrison.

The nearby administrative center on 12th Avenue is to be sold.

Latess said that moving the administrative center to the high school would give the district flexibility to close a building in the future.

He said at Monday’s school board meeting that although parents don’t want to hear that, it is almost certain to happen.

Move allows for layoffs

The importance of keeping one class of kindergarten students at Heights goes beyond getting the right building use for next school year.

It ensures that the district’s plan to furlough 32 teachers is legal.

According to state law, teachers can only be laid off under certain conditions.

The most common is when student enrollment declines. That’s not the case at Highlands, officials said.

Reorganizing class grades is another valid reason. But the law requires that at least one class of students from kindergarten through 12th grade must be taught in each school building.

“In all the buildings you are reorganizing, there has to be K-12 students in them,” Latess said.

Keeping the kindergarten at Heights allows the district to define the changes as a reorganization, thus allowing the furloughs to take place.

Latess said the district believed that the cyber school fulfilled that requirement but were advised that might not be the case.

Meanwhile, Latess said he is confident that all the kindergarten classes will be full-day, an option that had been on the budget chopping block.

“There’s been more lobbying for it,” Latess said. “It’s looking good, it’s looking real good.”

More wage freezes sought

Latess, who announced he is taking a salary freeze to help the cause, said the rest of the administration is discussing a salary freeze along with the district’s custodians, support personnel and teachers, all represented by unions.

He acknowledged parents’ objections to and concerns about the reorganization plans. However, he said his experience is that children adjust to such changes better than parents do.

“It’s change and every time there’s change, it rocks everybody’s world,” Latess said. “I’m very confident in the decisions we’re making. It’s the direction we’re heading in to survive as a district.”

Additional Information:

Coming up

Who: Highlands School Board

What: Vote to consider school building realignment; pass 2011-12 budget

When: 7 p.m. Monday

Where: Highlands High School library, 1500 Pacific Ave., Harrison

Categories: News
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