Friday, February 15, 2013
Pittsburgh Public Schools Superintendent Linda Lane released new estimates today for the repair of Schenley High School, gathered at the request of the school board in response to public outcry over the proposed sale of the school.
HHSDR Architects and Engineers estimated renovations would cost $53.2 million and Astorino estimated the repair bill at $59.4 million. Both firms looked at making the minimal repairs necessary to reopen the school, including the minimum removal of asbestos-containing plaster, according to a statement released by the district.
Both estimates are lower than the $64 million cost that district officials said they were facing five years ago, when board directors voted to close the school. Advocates for repairing the school renewed their effort to save it last summer after a report surfaced that raised questions about the concentrations of asbestos in the building.
But Lane says both new estimates are still too costly. "The estimates, sought at the request of the board at its Jan. 23 legislative meeting, confirm that renovation of the 97-year-old facility would further complicate a difficult financial environment for the district," according to the release.
"We understand why the alumni of Schenley High School have such great passion for the school," Lane says in the statement. "While we, too, love the beautiful Schenley facility ... we must balance the need to resolve a very concerning financial future in the context of our need to accelerate the academic achievement of all students."
The District's 2013 budget is 1.5 percent smaller than its previous year's operating budget. In the release, Lane notes that the district is on track to exhaust its $56.2 million fund balance in 2015 unless additional changes in spending are made.
The renovation of Schenley would add between $2.7 million and $5.3 million in debt service each year, adding between $53 million and $106 million to the district's outstanding debt of $584 million over the life of the bonds, her release states.
Preparation of the two estimates cost the district $17,000.
A community meeting is planned for Feb. 18 where PMC/Schenely HSB Associates will present its plan to turn the former school into 175 apartments. PMC has proposed buying the school from the district for $5.2 million. The board will hold a public hearing on the proposal Feb. 25 and vote on it Feb. 27.
In the meantime, an alumni group that also submitted plans to buy the property is continuing its effort, as we write about in this week's issue.