PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - The Pittsburgh Public Schools board has voted on how its students will return to class.
Citing both student and teacher safety, the board voted unanimously to delay in-person classes for nine weeks and do remote learning only.
The options included a hybrid of home and in-school learning. Another option gaining support was to keep students out of the classroom for the first nine weeks.
"I cannot in my heart ask people to return to the buildings," board member Terry Kennedy said at Friday's meeting. Kennedy said she would vote for the delay.
"My duty is to ensure the health and safety of our school children and nine-week delay is the best way to do that," said board member Kevin Carter.
On Wednesday when the district presented its health and safety plan for the fall, Carter proposed that the first nine weeks of the school year move online to help mitigate risk and give the district more time to prepare.
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The district said more than 4,000 students have already enrolled in full-time e-learning for the fall. Families have until Aug. 30 to enroll.
In deciding whether to open the classrooms or going remote only for the first nine weeks, the board weighed the hopes of some parents their kids would return to school against fears the coronavirus will infect teachers and students alike. The board came down on the side of student safety.
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Transportation and sanitation were also factors behind the decision.
"Assigning seats and having every other window open so that there's air coming in and the bus drivers would have to clean the busses in between," said Sylvia Wilson, PPS board president.
The board says the district's educational needs are complex and so is educating during a public health crisis.
"Seventy percent of our students are economically disadvantaged, 4.5 percent are English language learners," said board member Pam Harbin.
The Homewood Children's Village is providing laptops and iPads to many students, and the Pittsburgh Housing Authority is helping with hot spots.
PPS's board says more technology assistance is needed, and many are asking the city's large nonprofits to help. The board says devices have been ordered, but there is an international technology shortage.
"Trying to coordinate home internet service for serval thousand students at once is a cumbersome process," Carter told KDKA News.
Board members expressed great frustration and reluctance to vote, citing working parents like Erika Bruce who will need to make arrangements to take care of their children at home during the day.
"I have to go back to work. My husband works full-time. So definitely an issue for us. So we have to find a solution," Bruce told KDKA's Andy Sheehan.
Though KDKA's Andy Sheehan spoke with some parents in favor of the online start out of safety concerns, most said they'd rather their kids be back in school than at home.
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