Fully merging the Wilkinsburg School District with the Pittsburgh Public Schools is a separate process from a municipal merger. The decision to combine school districts would be made jointly between the school boards of the Wilkinsburg School District (WSD) and Pittsburgh Public Schools (PPS).
It is important to know that a municipal merger would impact the likelihood of a school district merger. If Wilkinsburg residents vote for a municipal merger with the City this November, the action sends a strong message that the community is also in favor of a school merger.
Considering the possibility of becoming a part of the City of Pittsburgh brings up challenging questions for parents who want the best education for their children.
Many people believe that all Wilkinsburg high school students attend Westinghouse High School, but that is not the case. For the past six years, we’ve had students from grades 7–12 attending almost every PPS high school, including CAPA, Obama, and Allderdice. Are those students better off now? The answer is unquestionably yes.
Educational opportunities at those schools are countless, from honors courses to creative, career, and technical preparation programs—not to mention the availability of athletic programs that WSD is not able to support. Since the launch of the WSD/PPS cross-district partnership in 2015, Wilkinsburg students have ranked as valedictorian at least two times. We believe that a full school district consolidation would offer similar opportunities for all students.
Does PPS want a merger with the Wilkinsburg School District?
Six years ago, the PPS board voted unanimously for the merger of Wilkinsburg grades 7–12. That’s a strong indicator of PPS’ willingness to welcome a full merger now. Problems predicted by some residents prior to the partial merger never materialized. Today there is less absenteeism, Wilkinsburg students achieve more, and there are fewer disciplinary problems. In addition, more students added more revenue for the PPS in an era of declining enrollment.
Why are we considering a merger now?
Our current school board has managed the district’s finances very well. They have balanced the books and have actually reduced our millage rate by 10%. That demonstrates good fiscal management. As a result, we will approach our discussions with PPS about a full district merger from a position of strength. It’s an ideal time to pursue this.
What magnet, charter, and other affiliated schools and differentiated learning pathway programs would children of Wilkinsburg residents be eligible for?
PPS has an extensive and thriving program for gifted and talented students, and the district’s special education and social-emotional programs far surpass the programs currently available in Wilkinsburg. With a full school district merger, children of Wilkinsburg residents would be eligible for all of these programs. More information on these programs can be found on the PPS website.
How would a full merger impact our access to Pittsburgh Promise scholarships?
There would be no change. Children of Wilkinsburg residents who attend PPS high schools and meet the eligibility criteria are and will remain fully eligible for Pittsburgh Promise scholarships.
What will be our designated school(s) and where are they located? What will happen to our current school buildings?
Pittsburgh is a neighborhood-based school district, particularly at the elementary level. With no current PPS elementary schools located within walking distance from Wilkinsburg, Kelly Elementary and Turner Intermediate schools would likely remain open, perhaps with some PPS students who live nearby attending.
Furthermore, as a community, we have invested a considerable amount of money in the renovation of Turner, and have made improvements to Kelly. Since school closings in Pittsburgh have generally been the result of building condition issues, it is likely that PPS would want to continue using the school buildings we have now.
What would happen to our school board representation if our districts fully merge?
Wilkinsburg Borough would be absorbed into one or more of Pittsburgh’s current districts and residents would elect school board members within their assigned districts.
Would Wilkinsburg students receive second-class treatment in a full school district merger with PPS?
Wilkinsburg students are fully equal to PPS students in all respects, and would receive the same opportunities and benefits of quality academics, programs, and activities.