Congresswoman Summer Lee joined Elizabeth Forward school leaders to tour the district’s damaged high school.(WPXI)

Feb 24, 2023
In the News

Congresswoman Summer Lee joined Elizabeth Forward school leaders on Friday morning to tour the district’s damaged high school.

Channel 11 reported earlier this month that flames tour through the building’s auditorium.

Right now, that space, along with nearby band rooms, are in the process of being demolished.

Superintendent Keith Konyk told Channel 11 that the process has been complicated by the fact that the building’s mechanical room, which includes boilers and other devices to provide electricity to the school, is located just below the demo space.

“The rest of the building was damaged by smoke,” he said. “We’re working to do that remediation.”

Konyk said that there is still no timeline on when students will be able to return to classrooms. He said that other nearby districts have offered up their space, and Elizabeth Forward leaders are considering that option. The district’s musical has been moved to another school, which he said they’re grateful for.

“I’m just blessed. Southwestern Pennsylvania is special, this region is special,” he said. “I think I’ve gotten a text from every superintendent.”

Lee said she wanted to visit the site to “make sure we’re amplifying the voices, the needs of this district and really helping, figuring out how we can advocate for this school district and these students, who are right now learning remotely, some of whom are in their senior year after spending half of their high school career remote for COVID.”

Lee said she believes the district could be in need of a brand-new building, in the long run.

“This is one of many high schools that are probably too old for our students and our staff and our teachers to be in,” she said. “All over the commonwealth, we have schools where buildings are outdated, the facilities, the equipment are outdated.”

Lee referenced a recent court ruling that Channel 11 covered, in which Pennsylvania’s school funding system was deemed unconstitutional. 

Lee, who served as a state representative before being elected to Congress, said that lawmakers must rethink the way in which schools receive funding.

“We have so many residents here, mostly aging residents, our seniors, who are shouldering the tax burden of funding our schools,” she said. “With our budget surplus that we still have, there are so many opportunities to fund basic education but also building funds, to make sure that students in Pennsylvania are never going into schools that have asbestos or lead or HVAC issues or smoke issues, or are in outdated buildings.”

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