Features & Special Reports

Why Do Schools Take a Summer Vacation?

Jun 10, 2013
Courtesy Detre Library & Archives, Senator John Heinz History Center

When you ask most Americans why children get a break from school in the summer you usually get one of two answers. 

Warren Sullivan of Hermitage provided the most popular answer while visiting Pittsburgh last month: “I think it was agriculture wasn’t it? I mean, it’s probably the season … a few generations ago anyway.”

Twenty-five school districts in southwestern Pennsylvania are receiving grants of $20,000 apiece to create digital learning spaces for students of all ages. 

“My heart was filled with joy,” said Rosanne Javorsky, assistant executive director of the Allegheny Intermediate Unit, reacting to the 80 proposals for grants to create innovative spaces to engage students in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math).

The AIU’s Center for Creativity is distributing the grants, which are funded by the Benedum and Grable Foundations.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

A new-to-Pennsylvania program is hoping to increase enrollment in advanced placement classes in two Pittsburgh high schools, with the ultimate goal to ensure more kids, especially kids of color, are prepared for higher education – whatever form that may take.

More than 100 students at Pittsburgh Brashear High School are currently enrolled in advanced placement, or AP, classes. Through a partnership with the National Math and Science Initiative, or NMSI, and a grant from the Heinz Endowments, work will get underway to increase that number.

Ryan Loew / 90.5 WESA

On a recent Thursday morning, Antoinetta Lassiter is playing with roller skates she has just gotten for her fifth birthday. She’s in her Beechview home with her mother and grandmother, asking an endless stream of questions.

Her mother Melinda Lassiter said it's nice to have her home, but if things had gone as planned, her daughter would still be enrolled in her Head Start program.

"I went to pick her up from school, and the teacher told us the school was closing on the 19th of April … and that was kind of shocking actually," she said. 

90.5 WESA

Gov. Tom Corbett and his allies in the state Legislature have introduced controversial legislation to reform the pension systems for state employees and public school teachers.

The sponsors say the bills make necessary cuts to reduce the state’s massive liability problem. Unions argue that the measures are illegal because they cut current workers’ future benefits.

To get a handle on how Pennsylvania’s two public pensions ended up in their current funding crisis, one has to look more than a decade into the past.

A Big Commitment

Homewood Cemetery Trees Get a Second Chance at Life

May 14, 2013
Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

On a recent Saturday morning, artists from around the region gathered at Homewood Cemetery to turn chopped-down trees into mushrooms.

State College artist Ed Crow and his wife Janise sculpted a small morel mushroom and transformed a large three-pronged piece of wood into three morel mushrooms. This was one of several public events surrounding the so-called reGenerations project.

“ReGenerations is really the cemetery engaging with the arts community here in Pittsburgh to make arts and crafts from the trees we’re salvaging,” said project director Kenn Thomas. 

Erika Beras / 90.5 WESA

In rural Lawrence County, part way between Slippery Rock and New Castle, there's a repurposed farm building sitting on 42 acres of land.

Eleven people call it home, and on site there are mental health workers, a director and other staff.

There's also close to a dozen dogs and cats.

That's because the facility, known as the Caritas House, is not just an enhanced personal care home for those with serious mental illness. It's also a crisis center for pets.

Ryan Loew / 90.5 WESA

When the Pittsburgh Riverhounds play their home opener on Saturday against the Harrisburg City Islanders, the team will have something they’ve never been able to claim — their own stadium.

Since their first game in 1999, the soccer team has called four different fields their home but has not been the primary tenant until now.

This year the Riverhounds are playing at Highmark Stadium next to Station Square. The field, built for the team, has 3,500 seats and a standing-room-only capacity of about 4,200 people.

Ryan Loew / 90.5 WESA

There is a house inside a building at the Pittsburgh Veterans Affair’s Aspinwall campus.

The house has everything one would expect – a doorbell, cable, flatware, a bedroom. There’s even a garage (but with half of a car).

The 1,100 square foot house, called MyHome, is a part of the VA’s Community Living Center, and it's designed to help patients recovering from physical or mental injuries transition safely back to their homes.

But that transition takes practice, according to VA Pittsburgh Rehab Site Supervisor Jason Fay.

Ryan Loew / 90.5 WESA

When Sarah Murphy found out she was pregnant, she was initially shocked.

"I didn’t think I would have kids, and then I ended up having him when I was 39," she said. 

Her advanced age led to a medically complicated pregnancy. Her income wasn’t as high as she thought it should be to cover the associated costs.

And as the child of a black woman living in Allegheny County, Murphy’s baby was three times more likely than a white woman’s child to die before reaching his first birthday.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

It’s often said Pittsburgh is a city of neighborhoods. There are the bustling neighborhoods of Oakland and Squirrel Hill, the struggling neighborhood of Homewood, and the transitioning neighborhoods in between. Then there’s a shadow neighborhood. Some people call it the Golden Triangle, some call it the business district, and others call it home.

“It’s not just a thoroughfare for the buses, or somewhere where you go to your office from 9 to five, but I actually live here and love it a lot,” said Gina Mucciolo.

Photo courtesy of PWSA

You know it's winter in Pittsburgh when your car is getting beat up by pot-holes, the streets are chalky with salt, and water main breaks proliferate. But what exactly is going on below the pavement?

Clogged pipes, flooded basements and sheets of ice on roadways are some of the visible signs of water main breaks. But many leaks and breaks go undetected - including sewer line breaks which filter through the soil and along side the pipes for months or years.

Pages