By Rob Taylor Jr.
Courier Staff Writer
It almost felt like the entire City of Pittsburgh was watching the live-streamed special legislative session of the Pittsburgh Public Schools’ Board of Directors on Friday afternoon, July 31.
The moment seemingly all district parents, teachers, staff, students and administrators were waiting on finally came after each board member spoke at length about if the district should institute remote learning only for all 23,000 students for the first nine weeks of the school year.
At 4:30 p.m., the board vote was unanimous, 9-0, “yes” to keep students out of the schools.
There indeed will be no in-school instruction at Pittsburgh Public School buildings when school begins on Aug. 31. But that doesn’t mean that in-school learning will automatically begin at the conclusion of the nine-week period.
The district originally had a plan to reopen schools to students in two different cohorts, where some students would attend school on Mondays and Tuesdays and others on Thursdays and Fridays. Students would learn from home on the days they weren’t in school. The district did give parents an option to enroll their students in remote learning only. More than 4,100 students were enrolled in this option as of July 22.
But at the “end of the day,” the board ultimately decided that all students will be enrolled in remote learning to start the year.
Terry Kennedy said in her remarks that she couldn’t, in her heart, “force people into a building at this time.”
William Gallagher said while “I understand, as a parent, it puts people in difficulty” due to parents having to go to work and not having adequate home childcare, he still couldn’t vote for in-school instruction. “We have to look out for the benefit of the people. We have people’s health in our hands.”
Sala Udin said that “we must hope for the best, but plan for the worst,” then said that students may not be back in school until 2021, if the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread in Allegheny County. He continued to hammer to the administration that they must do all they can to keep students learning while away from the schools.
Pamela Harbin said that she didn’t believe the board would still be having online meetings in late July, four months after the coronavirus pandemic arrived. Thus, how could board members even think about putting students back into classrooms.
She hinted back on July 22 when Kevin Carter introduced the resolution that she would vote “yes,” to keep kids out of the schools.
Carter, among his statements, said that “we have a responsibility to ensure the safety of all of our students and staff.”