Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Statement to the PPS School board from A.W.

Annette S. Werner PURE Reform

I'm here to talk about the proposed sale of the Schenley building.

The Schenley athletic addition - pool and gym- are asbestos free.

Again, the pool and gym added to Schenley in 1987 do not have asbestos plaster.

That is important information, because pools and gyms are of course very expensive. The district said the cost of just a new gym for Miller is $8M- and that would be a K-8 gym. The Schenley addition, which cost over $9M, would cost $18M in today's dollars.

It is bad enough to sell an $18M plus asset for 2M. Soon, however, we will be talking about money the district will need to spend to purchase what it just sold. The athletic facilities at U Prep are not suitable for a high school and not comparable to those enjoyed by other high school students in the district. Eventually it will become necessary to remedy the situation by adding new sports facilities, at great expense.

With the current state of the budget it will be difficult to roll in a wasteful expense unnoticed. There will be consequences in terms of higher taxes, more crowded classrooms, or both, and then repercussions in terms of enrollment and decisions people make about whether to live and locate businesses in the city. There are plenty of examples of urban school districts that ignored these considerations and have never recovered. Pittsburgh is not immune to these problems.

Now is the time to look ahead and prevent these unpleasant consequences. Put a padlock on the classroom portion of the Schenley building and preserve the very valuable sports facilities for PPS students. Maintenance costs of retaining the building can most likely be offset by fees for making the building available to other schools and organizations.

Looking beyond just this one building, insist on a realistic calculation of renovation costs when schools are closed or consolidated, and open those calculations to public scrutiny. Consider also the loss of options for the future when schools and plans don't turn out as expected. At some point we are going to have to take a good honest look at how the experiments of the last 6 years have turned out and one way or another, changes will need to be made; the only question is how much it will cost us.

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