On today's program: Pittsburgh Public Schools begins distributing more tech for at-home instruction; Gov. Tom Wolf faces legislative and legal pressure over what it means to be essential; and how the pandemic and its accompanying isolation is affecting people with substance use disorder.
PPS students won't return to school but will finish classes
(00:00 — 06:28)
Pittsburgh Public Schools is rolling out the first batch of new laptops for high school seniors today. It’s part of a new strategy to help students learn from home, but Superintendent Anthony Hamlet says it’s going to be a slow and somewhat unorthodox process.
“This is not a traditional classroom, so take that out of your mind right now,” he says. “A teacher will not be on the computer delivering instruction, because we realize that all kids do not have access. That teacher will be available for students to call in and ask questions about the lesson that’s given.”
Some students already have devices, many don’t, and while the district will try to distribute as many as they can, Hamlet says there’s no way they’ll get to all 23,000 students by the end of this school year in June. A parent survey has suggested they’ll need to acquire about 13,000 more devices to meet the need, according to the district.
For those kids—and those whose families don’t have access to fast or reliable internet—the district is offering paper packets and phone numbers for teachers that students or their caregivers can reach out to for help. Hamlet says “the kids who have access will not be getting more than the kids who don’t.”
The school year is still set to end as originally scheduled in June, though Hamlet says he’s hoping to double available spots in the district’s Summer Dreamers Academy and expand some afterschool programming in the fall.
Gov. Tom Wolf announced in March that all state-mandated end-of-year tests would be canceled this year, and that students and schools would not be required to fulfill the usual 180 days of instruction. He announced Thursday that schools will remain closed through the end of the academic year.
Some Republicans are challenging PA’s shutdown order
(06:37 — 13:45)
Tens of thousands of businesses across Pennsylvania could face fines and other penalties if they open their doors amid the coronavirus outbreak, but as PA Post’s Ed Mahon reports, some business owners and Republican state lawmakers are trying to challenge those closures.
The debate comes as the state is reporting more than 16,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 310 related deaths, and as several hundred thousand Pennsylvanians are applying for unemployment benefits.
Self-medicating your isolation woes could be risky
(13:50 — 18:04)
Pennsylvanians have been ordered to isolate at home, and some people are dealing with the stress and boredom with a stiff drink. Not everyone who drinks when they feel lousy has substance use disorder, though self-medication can lead to significant issues.
90.5 WESA’s Sarah Boden reports on concerns about how the coronavirus pandemic—and economic downturn—are affecting people who have unhealthy relationships with alcohol.
The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in weekdays at 9 a.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts.