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Oliver Citywide Academy students to attend four satellite schools

Oliver Citywide Academy.
Katie Blackley
90.5 WESA
Oliver Citywide Academy.

Students at Oliver Citywide Academy (OCA) will attend one of four satellite locations this year instead of the school’s North Side building.

Pittsburgh Public Schools announced the shift late Wednesday upon receiving state approval of its district-wide special education plan for the 2023-2024 school year, though school officials had been considering the move since January.

In a statement, Superintendent Wayne Walters said Oliver’s current facility was too closely linked to the grief of losing two students to gun violence just outside the campus over the last year and a half.

Students turned to remote learning 9 days before the end of the school year in June as they mourned the death of 15-year-old Derrick Harris, shot and killed outside the school — allegedly by another student — the month prior.

Marquis Campbell, also 15, was shot and killed outside the school in January 2022. In addition to the tragic losses, a student allegedly assaulted a teacher inside the school in late September.

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“We have heard from the Pittsburgh Oliver school community the deep pain associated with its current facility following the tragic loss of two of its students,” Walters said. “As a result, we will serve Pittsburgh Oliver students in four satellite sites instead of one location, allowing all students to receive full-time emotional support within buildings that also host conventional education classrooms.”

Oliver students will share facilities with other schools and programs, but maintain separate classrooms, teachers, administrators and support staff at each satellite location.

Students from grades 3 -12 will be relocated to schools based on the following capacity limits:

  • A maximum of 40 students, in grades 6-12, will attend the OCA satellite located at Greenway Middle School in Crafton Heights.
  • A maximum of 12 students will attend the OCA satellite within Perry Traditional Academy on the North Side.
  • A maximum of 12 students will attend OCA satellite at the Milliones 6-12 building in the Hill District; and
  • Students in grades 3-8 will attend an OCA satellite within King PreK-8 on the North Side, with a maximum of 18 students.

“When we talk about the need to create equity in access for our students, we must include opportunities for full-time emotional support in comprehensive school buildings,” Assistant Superintendent of the Program for Students with Exceptionalities Patti Camper said Wednesday in a statement. “This plan ensures we are providing the level of support for our most vulnerable students based on each student’s need. For some students that will be within a full-time separate program, while others will be supported in a comprehensive school.”
While Oliver provides special education services to students in a separate facility, 54% of all PPS students enrolled in special education services spend most of their time in general education classrooms.

The state-approved special education plan calls for increasing the share of students who receive special education services inside general education classrooms to roughly 62%. District leaders say doing so will require training for all teachers, paraprofessionals and administrators on inclusive practices and school-based behavioral health.

Jillian Forstadt is an education reporter at 90.5 WESA. Before moving to Pittsburgh, she covered affordable housing, homelessness and rural health care at WSKG Public Radio in Binghamton, New York. Her reporting has appeared on NPR’s Morning Edition.