Watch CBS News

Coronavirus In Pittsburgh: PPS Teachers Are Preparing For Online Classes, But 41 Percent Of Families Don't Have Adequate Access To Technology

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - Students across the state are saying goodbye to face-to-face learning in the classroom and "hello" to e-learning.

From kindergarten to senior year, students of all ages are now completing their homework assignments through the screen of online learning.

KDKA's Meghan Schiller talked to teachers, parents and school leaders. She learned many districts are excelling at this opportunity, but not all parents would give their districts a passing grade.

Remote learning is old news for the students of the Elizabeth Forward School District.

"We start our day at 8 o'clock and I have a morning message I send out to the children each day," said Allison Grimm, second grade teacher at Elizabeth Forward School District. "I tell them I'm thinking of about them and give them a problem of the day."

Grimm looks at a screen with nearly 20 boxes as her students join an afternoon "Zoom" call, and her students see the "whiteboard" and her videos pop up throughout the day. There's a side panel where the students can "raise their hand" within the chat or send messages.

Teacher Alana Wieclaw said its the same process for her 10th grade students. "They're so self-sufficient and they support each other," she told KDKA.

The district's superintendent Dr. Todd Keruskin said his staff didn't skip a beat while transitioning to online learning. They only "missed" one day of class on March 16 and they're cruising into week three of virtual learning.

"We continue to support schools across the country. Schools have contacted us from New York all the way to the state of Washington," said Dr. Keruskin.

But this one district's success story isn't mirrored yet at Pittsburgh Public Schools.

"I don't think they planned on being shut down this quick and this long so they weren't prepared," said Ashley Payne, a parent. "But now as far as their plans moving forward, I'm a little skeptical about all of it."

She said her son attends Conroy Education Center in Manchester. He has autism and barely knows how to use a computer. She's concerned about her son's ability to actually accomplish any meaningful learning from home.

"None of them do well paying attention sitting in a classroom and there's no way they're going to sit for hours online," said Payne.

About 1,700 Pittsburgh Public Schools teachers are training to start teaching thousands of students at home.

WATCH: KDKA's Chris Hoffman Reports

One of their big challenges will be meeting the technology needs for students across the city.

According to the school district, they have learned the technology needs of more the 10,000 of their students through their home technology surveys.

They know 41 percent of families do not have access to a technological device for each child and an additional 5 percent do not have access to the internet.

The district tells KDKA it bought 5,000 laptops at a price tag of $1.4 million. But in a district with more than 20,000 students, we asked the school board president: Was the district prepared?

"First of all, no one knew the situation was going to be a drastic as it has become," said Sylvia Wilson, school board president, Pittsburgh Public Schools.

Student instruction will begin on April 16 -- nearly three weeks from now and at least five weeks behind a district like Elizabeth Forward.

"I don't think you can ever say anything about anybody being slow footed or anything at all because just like hospitals had no idea that they would need ventilators and protective clothing, our schools did not know that we would be faced with this kind of situation. We are doing the best we can," said Wilson.

The University of Pittsburgh is adding almost an additional 600 devices.

And according to Pittsburgh Public Schools, they will work to get more devices for students.

The distribution of the devices will begin with high school seniors on April 9. They will distribute printed-out packets for students who can't do them online. And that will continue bi-weekly at their grab-and-go sites around the city.

Governor Wolf signed Senate bill 751 to waive the requirement of 180 days, ensuring schools continue to pay employees and provide education plans.

The school district plans to submit their proposal to the state this week.

Yesterday, the governor announced all schools in the state will be closed indefinitely.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.