© 2022 90.5 WESA
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Contact 90.5 WESA with a story idea or news tip: news@wesa.fm

All Pittsburgh Public Schools Students Eligible To Return To Classroom By May 3

Chris Carlson

Pittsburgh Public Schools will begin phasing its more than 20,000 students back into the classroom next month, after the coronavirus shuttered school buildings for in-person learning more than a year ago. District officials said that all students will be able to attend some in-person classes by May 3. 

“Custodial staff have classrooms set up with desks six feet apart, early childhood classrooms with tables have table shields, personal protective equipment such as cloth and disposable masks are available for all students and staff,” said PPS chief operating officer Mike McNamara at the virtual meeting which more than 700 people attended.

McNamara also said staff would frequently clean surfaces and regularly change ventilator air filters. Cafeterias will have fewer tables to promote social distancing during lunch periods.

When asked about discipline for students not wearing masks or violating other COVID-19 safety precautions, PPS Superintendent Anthony Hamlet stopped short of outlining a disciplinary code.

“It’s about building those rituals and routines,” Hamlet said. “Realizing that [mask enforcement] is something we need to make sure we focus on.”

The district will allow students back into the classroom in three phases. Students were grouped into four categories based on academic performance, attendance data and educational support needs. Those who would benefit the most from in-person instruction will return first.

The first group, including 4,786 students, will return April 6. The group includes preschool and kindergarteners as well as older students struggling with online instruction. Ted Dwyer, the district’s chief accountability officer, said students who require learning support as well as English language learners likely fall into this group.

The second group, comprised of 5,215 students, will return April 26. These students, according to the district, have demonstrated some progress with online learning.

The other two student groups, which includes the remaining 10,221 students, will be eligible to return to their schools on May 3. The district qualifies these students as either progressing or excelling in online learning.

Most students will attend school in a hybrid model, with some attending in-person class Monday and Tuesday and others attending Thursday and Friday. Students at the Pioneer and Conroy special education centers will attend class four days a week.

Pittsburgh Public Schools teachers and staff returned to the classrooms Monday to prepare for students returning. Gov. Tom Wolf announced Tuesday that more than 100,000 teachers and school staff members have been vaccinated against COVID-19 as part of the state’s targeted initiative. Wolf estimated there are about 200,000 educators and staff within Pennsylvania’s schools, but it’s not clear how many may have been vaccinated before the initiative due to a qualifying condition under phase 1A.

Hamlet said 80% of the district’s staff had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

The district also declined to specify what criteria would require a school building to close again. Rae-Ann Green, the district’s director of health services, said administrators would look at building size, community spread, and positivity rates when determining whether a particular school should close.

Students who exhibit symptoms of COVID-19 while in school buildings will be put in an isolation area with an air purifying system while administrators get in touch with a parent or guardian. Green said the district lacks the capacity to test students on site, but parents will be encouraged to have their child tested and quarantine for the recommended time frame.

Listener contributions are WESA’s largest source of income. Your support funds important journalism by WESA and NPR reporters. Please give now — a monthly gift of just $5 or $10 makes a difference.