End of an era–Schenley prepares to close its doors forever

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End of an era–Schenley prepares to close its doors forever

Erik Rauterkus

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Mark Roosevelt, former superintendent of the Pittsburgh Public Schools , predicted that it would cost $76 million dollars to remove the asbestos and make other necessary renovations to keep Schenley High functioning. In a later written statement Roosevelt stated that the district had, “limited funds to support our academic initiatives,” and that if funds were directed toward saving Schenley, taxes would have to be raised.

A school board meeting lasting past 11 in the evening  with hundreds of protesters speaking out against the closure of Schenley, a school board vote that went 5-4 in the favor of closing Schenley High School effectively  ended an era.

What a legacy it was, the school was erected in 1916 and named after Mary Schenley, whose land was used to build Schenley High School. Schenley was built with Indiana limestone and was the first high school in the country to cost over one million dollars to build.

It became a spectacle for the city of Pittsburgh, and when its doors opened in 1916, 1,800 students were already enrolled. The school continued to grow, reaching 3,012 students in 1940. Schenley High School became a beacon of light for the city through hard times, as the end of the steel industry left many in trouble.

Schenley High School was home of a rare three-manual Skinner pipe organ, which was presented to the high school in recognition of the quality of education the school  provided to the city. Schenley continued to grow as a high school, but began to transform in 1983 and became a national leader in furthering educational development in the United States.

In 1983, Schenley High School was renamed, the Schenley High School Teacher Center, and was at the forefront of American high schools for instituting the latest research on teaching high school students. The program also advanced the teaching skills of the teachers themselves. Schenley had truly created successful students,  including Andy Warhol and many others.

When Schenley was put on the National Register of Historic Places it once again showed what the building meant to the city. This was a great honor for the school, which is located in the Schenley Farms District in Oakland. Shaped in a triangle, it was a ‘green building’ before the term green building was used. The Schenley High School building was naturally ventilated. It was also renowned for its great usage of natural light. All class rooms, hallways, auditoriums, and gyms were naturally lit and needed very little artificial light. Schenley High School offered a great place for learning that many generations of Pittsburgh took advantage of.

Schenley was also home to the distinguished International Baccalaureate Program that is offered in 11th and 12th grade. This program consisted of intense courses that at the end of twelfth grade provided many students with college credit. Within this program Schenley  received a Golden Globe Award for an Outstanding Language Program.

Not only was Schenley known for having top quality education but it also was renowned for its sports programs. During the 1970’s Schenley’s basketball team claimed many state titles. The Schenely basketball program became renowned once again in 2007, when Schenley’s DeJuan Blair led the team to another state title. Schenley’s basketball program is not the only excellent sports program the school has had,  as Schenley’s track, swimming, volleyball, and many other sports programs have proven their worth by capturing city titles and more. In the 2009-2010 school year, 9 of Schenley’s 16 varsity teams captured city championships, many times over their arch rival, Taylor Allderdice.

Schenley High School is not only known for its excellent academic and sports programs, but it has a distinguished arts department, as well. It is especially known for its musical, which has won many Gene Kelly Awards. The school also has a well-known steel band program that travels to perform their unique sound.

With one vote and much objection, it was decided that Schenley’s long legacy was over. The spring of 2011 will graduate the last students to ever receive a Schenley High School diploma. 29-8 was the score  as Schenley’s football legacy came to an end in the first round of playoffs. 88-71 was the score as Allderdice defeated Schenley’s boy’s basketball team in the semi-finals of the playoffs. The last musical that will have a chance at winning the distinguished Kelly Award is Seussical -The Musical. Schenley’s swim team grabbed their first title with only one year left in their program. With one more track season, Schenley’s track team will show their greatness once more. 177 students will be handed a diploma that reads Schenley High School. Those will be the last Schenley diplomas ever awarded.

With that name, Schenley, there is a distinguished record, a record of excellence in academics, sports, arts, and people. An era may be over, but the legacy will last forever.

Historical reference for this article came from The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Wikipedia.

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