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Pittsburgh Community Schools Offer Alternative to Closing Schools

Community schools activists in Pittsburgh, PA are protesting the closing of up to ten district schools by proposing a new strategy for success in schools: open up the schools to the community in a greater capacity rather than shut them down for good. This strategy would require a restructuring of the way the community interacts with schools, making each school a hub for community enrichment programming, health and social services, and special events. Jessie Ramsey of Great Public Schools Pittsburgh claims that community schools should reverse the trend of public school closings, stating that "schools should only close if there are no children to go to them". Pittsburgh Public Schools is listening to this proposal with caution, as it does not believe that it directly addresses the cost-saving advantages that school-closings do (an estimated $1million per year). This means that in order to convince PPS that community schools are a viable option to replace closing schools, Ramsey and other advocates will have to demonstrate that they can not only sustain themselves, but also leverage district dollars. PPS Superintendent has made it clear that if advocates "have a plan for how to finance it, I’d absolutely support it".

Luckily, many communities have already shown that community schools are able to be sustained through partnerships with community organizations and government. Mayor Bill Peduto could be a key person to help foster those partnerships, as a supporter of community schools himself. He has established a taskforce set to release a report by September. Even in times of tight budgets in school districts community schools are finding ways to thrive through the utilization of partnerships, and Pittsburgh will be no exception.

Read more in the article in the Pittsburgh City Paper here.

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