Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
WESA is experiencing technical difficulties and you may notice glitches in our audio quality. We are working to correct the issue. Thank you for your patience.
Contact 90.5 WESA with a story idea or news tip:

Nearly 5,000 PPS Students Return To Classrooms As County Coronavirus Cases Continue To Increase

Katie Blackley
90.5 WESA
Morrow Elementary School in Pittsburgh's Brighton Heights neighborhood.

After a year of remote learning, nearly 4,800 Pittsburgh Public Schools students will return to their classrooms starting Tuesday as part of a phased reopening that aims to get all students back into school buildings by May 3.

“We had a number of students that were doing well in remote instruction, but we had another, larger number of students who were not doing well,” Pittsburgh Public Schools Superintendent Anthony Hamlet told WESA’s The Confluence. “Based on our analysis of our grades from quarter one and quarter two, we noticed that there were more kids that were failing courses, kids’ grades had dropped, and so the board voted in a resolution to come up with a model to phase kids back in based on need.”

The group returning April 6 includes preschoolers, kindergarteners, and other students who have struggled with remote instruction. The second group, which consists of an additional 5,000 students who have shown some progress with online learning, will return April 26. The roughly 10,000 remaining students are progressing or excelling in online learning, and will have the option to return on May 3. 

PPS will space desks 6 feet apart, and students will be required to wear masks. Current CDC guidelines recommend that students remain at least 3 feet apart in areas with low, moderate, and substantial community transmission, and 6 feet apart in areas with high community transmission. 

The Pennsylvania departments of Health and Education recently announced updated instruction guidelines for schools in accordance with the latest guidance from the CDC. The department recommends that public schools in counties with “substantial” levels of community transmission, including Allegheny County, employ hybrid or fully remote learning models for their students. 

As Pittsburgh students return to in-person instruction, COVID-19 cases in Allegheny County have been steadily creeping up in recent weeks, according to state Department of Health data. County Health Department director Dr. Debra Bogen noted last week that there have been recent outbreaks among school-age children, linked to events both in and outside of school. Given the recent trend, it’s possible the county will still be considered to have “substantial” transmission when all PPS students return to school buildings May 3.

Hamlet said he cannot predict whether students will be back in the classroom full time in the fall.

“If need be, we’ll have hybrid learning going on for our students, like we’re having today,” he said. “But if the CDC guidelines and the nation is where we need to be when it comes to five days a week, we will make that happen, because ultimately we know the best place for our students is in a classroom, is in front of our teachers, learning every day.”

Julia Zenkevich:

Start your morning with today’s news on Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania. Sign up for WESA’s Inbox Edition newsletter.