PPS board hears comments on plan to continue virtual learning as Winter sports begin

PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh Public Schools board members read comments from parents, students and teachers Monday evening during a public hearing on the district’s reopening plan.

Last week, the Board proposed a plan to continue virtual learning until April 6.

The comments from many parents oppose that plan.

“The board’s decision to continue with virtual-only learning has wreaked havoc on my children’s social and emotional development, on our families finances and on our family in general,” said one parent.

A majority of the comments from teachers and staff support waiting a couple months longer before going back to the classroom.

“I completely understand that we have students who are struggling but at this time. Keeping everyone safe is the highest priority. We can make up for learning loss but we can’t bring back a staff, student or family member who can possible pass away from getting COVID,” said a paraprofessional.

Board members will conduct a second public comment period Tuesday.

A vote on the proposed plan is expected Wednesday.

Meantime, students participating in winter sports started team practices again on Monday.

Jameel Bennett’s son, Sayon, is a point guard for the boy’s basketball team at the Barack Obama Academy of International Studies.

“They were coming off of winning the city championship last year, so his junior year, which sparked a lot of buzz with college coaches to play at that level. So, this would be his opportunity to showcase his skills and get in front of coaches for scholarship opportunities,” said Bennett.

Bennett is thrilled he will be able to play his senior year after the state paused winters sports in December.

Then, due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases in Allegheny County, the season was delayed even longer.

Now, the school board is considering a plan to keep children at home until April 6, but that decision will not change the plan for winter sports.

”Not being able to watch him live - in person - it stings a little bit. So, we’re hoping the district can come up with an alternative and live stream the game for fans and parents. Especially for senior parents seeing their kids play high school sports last time,” said Bennett.

The district’s athletic director has told parents no spectators will be allowed attend their students’ games, but that could change in the future.

In the meantime, the district will be following all recommended health guidelines, including cleaning breaks during practices.

“There will be health screenings as kids come into the gym which will include asking them if they have symptoms temperature check those kinds of things,” said Karen Arnold, athletic director for Pittsburgh Public Schools.