PITTSBURGH — To go or not to go to school? The answer isn't as simple as it seems.
Pittsburgh Public Schools has to consider the needs of all students, families, educators and staff members as cases in Allegheny County surge and new recommendations come out seemingly daily.
Among the 407 recommendations, immediate actions for the start of the 2020-2021 school year include:
- Choice for families between a full-time E-Learning option or a mix of in-school instruction and E-Learning. To date, close to 700 students have enrolled in full-time E-Learning.
- The switch to Schoology as the District’s online Learning Management System, with the integrated use of Microsoft Teams to support communications. Schoology, currently used at the Pittsburgh Science and Technology Academy, rated high for its ease of use, accessibility, technical integration and content management.
- An AA/BB schedule for in-school instruction to limit the number of students in the building at any one time. This would mean students in one cohort may attend school Monday and Tuesday and participate in E-Learning on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, while some students attend school on Thursday and Friday and have E-Learning on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. AA/BB is preferred over AB/AB to support in-depth cleaning requirements between cohorts.
- No in-school instruction at the Gifted Center. All classes will be held virtually.
- All students and staff wear masks all day and practice social distancing. While on a school bus, students sit one to a seat. The District will survey families on plans for utilizing District transportation to schedule bus routes effectively.
Every student will have an iPad or laptop to help with online learning. If school is online, classes will be scheduled and teaching will be live.
Anthony Hamlet, superintendent of Pittsburgh Public Schools, said it's difficult with data changing by the day to plan for the future not knowing what recommendations the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or state will issue in the future.
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“We don’t know what will happen in the end of August; however, we still felt the need to make a localized plan instead of being given one from outsiders, said Angel Gober, Western PA Organizing Director, One Pa. “The plan will not be perfect, but I believe the folks who participated in this process showed up in a big way!”
The recommendations also include moving the first day of school for all students from Aug. 26 to Aug. 31, to allow for a total of six professional development days for teacher professional development on Schoology and Teams and safety protocols.
Kindergarten students would also start later on Sept. 3.
Hamlet also said the start of the school year could be entirely online if COVID-19 cases continue to rise in Allegheny County.
“Our number one priority is the health and safety of our students and staff. We will only reopen schools when we can assure our families, students and staff that all social distancing and health and safety measures are in place and can be followed. Based on the condition of COVID-19 in our area, we will be ready to pivot and offer full-time E-Learning to all students,” said Hamlet. “I am confident that regardless of the condition of the coronavirus in Allegheny County, we will be prepared to provide our students with the high-quality learning experience they deserve.”
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