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School district fielding 7th & 8th grade teams for first time in 10 years
Duquesne City School District’s “Dukes” are a comeback story in the making.
Once known for their athletic prowess in the mill town’s glory days, the Dukes were forced to leave the playing field in 2012 due to serious financial challenges, which ultimately caused the closure of both DCSD’s middle school and high school.
However, this fall marks their triumphant reappearance. For the first time in 10 years, DCSD will sponsor school athletics in conjunction with the recent return of seventh-graders — which happened in the fall 2021 — and upcoming return of eighth-graders, which is happening this fall.
All in all, Superintendent Sue Mariani sees a bright future ahead for the Dukes and the district as a whole.
“As DCSD works to restore equity in the classroom and provide students the opportunities and access they deserve, they stay diligent in their efforts to restore athletic facilities, to help restore the pride, excitement and community support that comes with rebuilding team sports,” Mariani said.
The district’s sports legacy is rich and includes several state titles in football and basketball.
Administrators like Athletic Director DiAngelo Mitchell hope to give it new life. His goal this year is to build up the program and create serious student interest.
“The kids are already really excited and asking about games and schedules. Right now we are surveying our students to determine who might be interested in playing various sports,” Mitchell said in a prepared statement.
Thanks to new support, resources, and the makings of an overall new direction for the district, DCSD applied for WPIAL reinstatement in December 2021 and received final approval in February 2022.
The program has also been recognized by the PIAA. District officials said that milestone was made possible by the efforts of Mitchell, elementary school principal Eric Harper and assistant principal and DSAP coordinator George Little.
Beginning this month, the district will field teams in the WPIAL South Hills Conference in multiple sports including football, cheerleading, boys’ and girls’ track and field, girls’ volleyball, boys’ and girls’ basketball, boys’ baseball and girls’ softball. The fall sports schedule will include football, girls’ volleyball and cheerleading. In order to compete, the district needs to field a minimum of 15 students for football and nine students for all else.
DCSD’s current athletic facilities are deemed unsafe for use due to major disrepair. But district officials said plans are underway to address this problem. Construction of new facilities, including a football stadium and baseball/softball fields, is set to begin later this year and will take place in various phases.
Phase 1 field and stadium construction will begin in late 2022; completion is intended in Summer 2023. Phase 1 will include the construction of a new football field, track, scoreboard, stadium structure, ancillary structures, parking and bathrooms. Phase 2 construction will follow, intended for Summer 2024 completion. Phase 2 will include a new baseball field, softball field, scoreboards, fan seating and parking. Location is to be determined.
The total budget is currently estimated at $20 million for Phase 1; the budget for phase 2 will be determined based on land selection and final site design. Additional funds will be needed to cover start-up program costs, including uniforms, training equipment, and practice equipment.
The district is seeking donations that will go towards the purchase of athletic equipment for the students as well as the renovations of the football and baseball field. A crowdfunding website has been set up using GoFundMe.
Amy George is a Pittsburgh-based writer and editor who is currently a master’s student at Carnegie Mellon University. Her work has previously appeared in the Northside Chronicle and the University Times.
Originally published August 02, 2022.