Pittsburgh Public Schools students and staff who returned to buildings this week for the first time since March will again return to learning and teaching from home on Monday.
A robocall to families said that the district made the decision because of the increasing number of coronavirus cases in Allegheny County – on Thursday it logged its highest total yet, with more than 400 cases.
All teachers returned to schools this week, as well as 800 of the district’s 23,000 students. Those students were identified as having substantial learning barriers in a remote setting – students with disabilities, medically fragile students, and English language learners.
“To limit the spread of COVID-19, district staff will return to the routines of the previous nine weeks working remotely unless otherwise instructed by their supervisor,” the robocall stated. “As further increases are anticipated with the upcoming holiday season, fulltime e-learning will continue for all students until no earlier than January 4th when the district will begin to phase in in-person, hybrid instruction. This decision is in alignment with the Pennsylvania Department of Education.”
A letter sent to the school board on behalf of the district’s physician Dr. Martin Gregorio and obtained by WESA said that while the rate of COVID-19 positivity in Allegheny County is at a moderate level, “the acceleration of the incidence rate … indicates a substantial level of community transmission.”
A press release from the district on Friday said that the district plans to transition students to in-person in January.
“While it was a joy to actually see children and teachers in our buildings again, the safety of our students, staff and families is a top priority,” Superintendent Anthony Hamlet said in the release. “We cannot ignore the continued growth of COVID-19 in our area.”
Nina Esposito-Visgitis, president of the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers, said Friday that she supports the decision. She said while teachers largely have expressed wanting to be back in person with students, many opposed the hybrid model.
“Being in hybrid wasn’t like being in the classroom,” Esposito-Visgitis said. “You still had a computer in front of you and had to be on guard. Everybody was nervous. It wasn’t like being back anyway.”