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PPS Teachers, Parents Ask District To Keep Students At Home

Sarah Schneider
90.5 WESA

Nearly 50 teachers and parents asked the city school district’s board Monday to reconsider its plan to return students to classrooms in-person on November 9.

The district plans to move to a hybrid model with students learning part time in-person and part time online. Families have the option of keeping students fully online.

Teachers said Monday during the board's monthly public hearing that students would get less instructional time in a hybrid model because educators will have to focus on two groups at once – those in their classroom and those on the computer. One-hundred and seventy-two speakers registered to testify. The board heard from more than 70 on Monday. The hearing continues Tuesday at 5 p.m. and can be streamed at pghschools.org. In the first night of testimony, no speaker was in favor of the district’s current plan.

Nicole Hartman, a teacher at Morrow Elementary School, called the plan an unnecessary classroom management nightmare.

“You’re asking teachers to maintain and enforce social distancing while managing in-person classroom behavior, monitor the chat and participation for students that are participating online and while remaining in the view of the webcam to ensure all students have access to instruction,” she said

The board has met remotely since March and many speakers noted that school staff and students shouldn’t be expected to return to buildings until the board meets in person. Board president Sylvia Wilson said the plan is to return to in-person meetings at its Oakland administrative building in November.

Some speakers said they were concerned by the increase in cases in Allegheny County and the number of other districts around the county that have moved from in-person to online learning because of outbreaks. Others said they were concerned that the schools weren’t prepared to go back to buildings because there are still unanswered questions. A few teachers said that the number of days students would be back in classrooms was not worth the risk. Those teachers asked the district to delay the return to schools until at least January.

“How many of our children are we willing to sacrifice?” asked Pittsburgh Montessori teacher Stephanie Lapine.

West Liberty Elementary School student Jaquelyn Miller said she is worried that students won’t follow mask rules.

“School is not going to be the same as it always was if we go back now,” she said. “We will be doing the same thing we did at home but with a bigger risk of getting sick.”