PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - Teachers and staff returned to Oliver Citywide Academy on the North Side for the first time since a student was gunned down outside of the building a week ago. Students continue to attend school from home. Pittsburgh Public Schools says it's all part of what it's calling a gradual reentry process.
To make the return easier, leaders from various faith-based organizations were there to show their support as people walked into the building Wednesday morning.
A spokesperson with Pittsburgh Public Schools told KDKA Mayor Ed Gainey, the interim superintendent and board members held a private meeting with staff Wednesday morning. In addition to this, several faith leaders stood right out front of the school building in the bitter cold to show their support and remind teachers and staff they're here for them during this difficult time.
"The main message is that we are neighbors, and a neighbor doesn't mean it ends in your neighborhood," said Rabbi Ron Symons.
Symons is the founding director of the Center for Love and Kindness of the JCC for Greater Pittsburgh. He was one of several local faith leaders who decided to sacrifice their warmth and stand outside of Oliver Citywide Academy in the cold as teachers and staff walked in.
In addition to offering warm smiles, they held up signs that read things like "Love your teacher as yourself." and "Love your school secretary as yourself."
"For some people, they look at us and they just smile and start crying," said Symons. "For others, they just have their head down. They appreciate the support but want to get in and do the work they're supposed to do."
Symons says he can't imagine how the teachers and staff at Oliver are dealing with the loss of 15-year-old Marquis Campbell, a ninth grader who was shot twice in the chest a week ago by two masked suspects who are still on the loose. He later died. He was sitting in a van at dismissal when police say the pair walked up to the van and opened fire.
"Could you imagine what it's like being someone who works in a school nowadays? The challenges of education at large and then overlay with COVID and then overlay with the murder here. It's just daunting," said Symons.
In a statement, Chief Scott Schubert said police are still "actively and thoroughly" investigating the "senseless crime."
"Our hearts go out to the family and friends of Marquis Campbell. No parent should have to send their child to school with the fear that they will not return home at the end of the day. This violence must stop. Pittsburgh Police have an excellent working relationship with Pittsburgh Public School Police and Oliver Citywide Academy and we will continue to fully support them and offer them any assistance they need as they return to the school, said Schubert.
As for what was discussed in the meeting with Mayor Gainey, a district spokesperson said she doesn't have those details.
KDKA reached out to the mayor's office who referred us to Gainey's Twitter page where he said: "CommUnity means communicating Unity to our City and Children. That's how we all see the world grow."
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