Community Gets a Look at New Penn Hills School

By Polke, Clarece | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA), August 14, 2014 | Go to article overview

Community Gets a Look at New Penn Hills School


Polke, Clarece, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)


For years, Jackie Kruzic taught art in an old locker room.

A remnant of the room's former use was evident in the shower heads still attached to the walls. Only a small single sink was available for students to wash their hands and materials. Access to the sink was a constant battle for students, she said, and she would often have to wait until after class or the end of the school day to clean up. Students would sit in uneven three-legged chairs at old tables found in storage rooms around the school to do their lessons.

But for her and her students at Penn Hebron Elementary School in Penn Hills School District, the room lacking central air conditioning was "home, and we made it work."

Her art room at the newly opened Penn Hills Elementary School is palatial by comparison, she said.

The $40 million consolidated elementary building, on the site of the former Dible Elementary School on Jefferson Road, opened to the public Saturday after the district closed its remaining three elementary schools - Forbes, Washington and Penn Hebron. Along with the consolidation of the three remaining schools comes the consolidation of support services, electives and available resources for students and teachers. More than 1,200 students are enrolled to start at one of the largest elementary schools in Allegheny County.

For Ms. Kruzic, the merger means a crop of new students, a new principal and a new team of about 150 faculty and staff members from across the district. It also gives her a classroom with multiple cleaning sinks and a large storage closet and cabinets filled with glitter, paint, paste and other art supplies.

Forbes and Washington elementaries previously shared art and music teachers, while all three buildings shared one behavior specialist. Penn Hebron was the building for specialized autism support services and also had its own music and art teacher.

Reading specialist Kerry Ott would spend one day at her office in the district administrative building before carrying her books and materials with her from school to school throughout the remainder of the week.

"Now we're all here," Ms. Ott said. …

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