McAuliffe program should be expanded

I want to share concerns that I have regarding the potential movement of the McAuliffe Heights at Irving (MHI) magnet program to the Penn Lincoln school building.

It is understandable with the coming years, there will be significant change within the district. When considering the movement of MHI, I hope the school board will consider the following points and questions:

It has not been publicly discussed if the program will be instituted throughout the entire building at Penn Lincoln.

If they intend to make the entire school the same magnet program, will there be four classes of each grade within the building? Is there space for that within the current building?

Will the sixth grade be moved to the junior high when this program is to be moved to Penn Lincoln, creating smaller classroom sizes? (Currently MHI has a kindergarten acceptance rate of 25 students per class of one teacher. This is 10 over the state average of 15:1.)

If the board does not intend to make the entire building the magnet program, I have significant concerns, as a parent of an MHI student.

Will specific classrooms be the magnet program?

Will MHI occupy the top half of the school, essentially segregating the two student bodies from one another?

Is it wise to operate two schools in one, as the media suggested?

This could cause feelings of inferiority by children not enrolled in the MHI program.

How do we answer the question of children who have worn uniforms for years (due to the program requirement), but want to know why they go to school with children who do not have the same standards that they do?

How does the board intend for the school to keep the classes separate for activities such as lunch, recess, assemblies, morning and afternoon dismissal, etc.

How do you plan on helping the children in the Penn Lincoln Elementary School program understand why they don’t have some of the opportunities afforded to the MHI students (whose parents create those opportunities or provide the funding for those opportunities by searching out and applying for grants or donations).

There is also the issue of the current equipment at the MHI building. Through donations, fundraising, grants and generosity of time and money, there are items, such as the playground equipment and Lego walls, that were not provided by the school district funds.

Will those be moved to the Penn Lincoln building for the students, by the school district’s dime?

If the school is joined together and the program expanded, will you provide additional supplies to make enough available for additional children to enjoy some of these items?

If the program is separate, will these items be put in the area where only the MHI students have access to them?

In no way, as a taxpayer, do I support the institution of “two schools in one.”

I ask the school board members to not consider this option. McAuliffe Heights students have fought for years to dispel the myths that they are better than other students of the area.

Creating “two schools in one” only encourages the belief that some students are “better” than others. Please don’t do that to the students of the Altoona Area School District elementary system.

Expanding the McAuliffe Heights program and its current policies, giving access to the program to more students is more favorable. If you must move the MHI program out of the Irving building, I hope the board will consider this option instead.

Brionne Gioiosa