Pittsburgh Public Schools in ‘state of educational emergency,’ council members say

PITTSBURGH — Two members of Pittsburgh City Council say Pittsburgh Public Schools is in a “state of educational emergency.”

Councilmen Ricky Burgess and Daniel Lavelle want the city to step in, introducing legislation calling for changes in nine areas to tackle two issues impacting students: COVID-19 and institutional racism.

Included in the resolution are calls for the district to extend the school year, make school days longer, implement summer learning programs, provide supportive services and increase the number of African American teachers.

“A longer school day is a possibility, but, you know, longer doesn’t mean better,” Pittsburgh Public School Board President Sylvia Wilson said. “This isn’t some simple little solution or simple little problem, it really isn’t, and for anyone to just basely say that is totally wrong.”

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Burgess and Lavelle are also pushing for a return to in-person instruction, starting with getting elementary school students back in classrooms as soon as possible.

“We need to do everything within our power to open up these elementary schools as soon as possible,” Burgess said. “Every month we delay, it’s probably resulting in a three or four-month delay in terms of children’s learning and bringing them farther behind.”

The Pittsburgh Public Schools Board fired back with a statement, saying in part: “While no elected official from the City, has contacted the District to meet on the concerns expressed in the proposed resolution, we agree to agree. However, PPS along with all other districts in the Commonwealth have been operating under an emergency declaration of Governor Wolf since March 2020.”

The board said it is encouraged by the resolution, agreeing that the pandemic has exposed major and systemic educational inequities within our region.

The board also said delaying the start of a hybrid learning model for a third time was not an easy decision.