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Just as five parents of West Liberty Elementary students anxiously awaited their chance to complain to the Pittsburgh Public Schools, board administrators told them their problem was solved.

The parents were at the June 16 meeting to prevent next year's second- and third-graders from being put together in a mixed-age classroom because of lower school enrollment and the resultant lack of funds for an additional teacher. But just before the meeting, the district's chief academic officer Andrew King announced that "money has been found" to hire another teacher from the city schools' federal funding. King also said he was investigating whether other possible mixed-age classes could make use of similar funds.

Elementary schools director Richard Mascari told the board he was only aware of split classes in the very small and recently reopened Spring Garden Elementary. However, he had earlier told City Paper ("No Show and Tell," June 5) that several elementary schools -- Arlington Elementary, Whittier, Regent Square and McCleary -- hovered around 200 students, making them not quite large enough to take enrollment fluctuations in stride.

In such schools, losing 30 students could mean the loss of a funding equivalent to a teacher's salary. Enrollments at West Liberty Elementary in Brookline have hovered around 200 for the past two years. With 250 children, West Liberty would have a large enough budget to form classes at each grade level and also support music, art and library programming. It had such enrollment levels when it opened in 2000, and had gained students when nearby Bon Air Elementary was closed. But when the school board reopened even smaller Bon Air (capacity 120) in 2001, West Liberty lost 50 students. West Liberty parents still hope to shore up their enrollment by adjusting school assignments in their area.

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