By Mary Niederberger
Pittsburgh Current Education Writer
The Pittsburgh Public Schools has announced a return-to-school plan for April that prioritizes a group of about 10,000 students that includes those who are not making progress or only “some” progress” and students in PreK and kindergarten.
The plan, released in a statement to the press late Monday night, does not include a return date for students who are making progress or “positive” progress as identified by the district based on “a semester’s worth of data.”
“While we long for the day when we can reopen our school buildings for all students, to ensure safe and healthy school communities we must prioritize those students with the highest need for the return to in-person instruction in a hybrid model,” Superintendent Anthony Hamlet said in the release.
The data used by the district includes student progress in math and English language arts, attendance, social-emotional learning factors and special education plans. It divides students into four groups:
- Support Category 1: Student demonstrating positive progress in eLearning.
- Support Category 2: Student demonstrating progress in eLearning.
- Support Category 3: Student demonstrating some progress in eLearning.
- Support Category 4: Student is not demonstrating progress and/or is in Kindergarten or PreK
Under the plan, those in Category 4, which account for 4,786 students, would return to a hybrid in-person learning program on April 6 — the date the school board set in January for a return to in-person learning.
Those in category 3, which holds 5,215 students, would return on April 26.
Those students would attend on an AA/BB group system, with AA students attending in-person on Mondays and Tuesdays and BB students attending in-person on Thursdays and Fridays. Schools would be sanitized on Wednesdays and weekends.
Students with special needs who attend Pittsburgh Pioneer and Pittsburgh Conroy will attend in-person learning four days a week on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.
Students in Category 1, numbering 3,085, and Category 2, including 7,136 pupils, do not have a return date under the current plan. Their inclusion in in-person learning will depend upon social distancing measures and the number of families who choose to continue to have their students remain in online learning.
Superintendent Anthony Hamlet said while he understands the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers desire to have all teachers fully vaccinated against COVID-19 before returning to the classroom, the reopening of schools cannot wait for that to happen.
“”As a District, we are doing everything we can to work with our healthcare partners like UPMC to schedule vaccinations as quickly as possible as part of 1B vaccinations,” Hamlet said in the release.“However, it is unrealistic to continue to postpone the reopening of our schools until every teacher is vaccinated.”
He noted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has indicated that it is not necessary for all teachers to be vaccinated in order for schools to reopen and said the district’s mitigation strategies exceed those released by the CDC.
“We are ready to welcome our students back in a hybrid approach, when schools are scheduled to open April 6,” Hamlet said in the press release.
Those strategies include universal wearing of masks, physical distancing, handwashing and respiratory etiquette, cleaning facilities and contract tracing along with isolation and quarantine of identified cases.
In addition, the release said, the school board is expected to approve at its Wednesday legislative meeting the purchase of 220 air purifiers and replacement filters for use throughout the district.