By Deana Carpenter, freelance writer
Members of the community are urging the Mt. Lebanon School board to move forward with five-day-a-week in-person instruction for students.
The district returned to a hybrid format for elementary school students Jan. 11, with children in classrooms two days a week. The middle schools and high schools returned to the hybrid format Jan. 21.
Superintendent Tim Steinhauer said the next step will be to add a four-day-per-week hybrid option in the secondary schools and a five-day-a-week option at the elementary level, but no set time frame was given at the Jan. 19 meeting.
“This year has been really hard for students — going in and out of school — and technical difficulties,” said fifth grader Ava Cantore, who added she has friends in neighboring school districts that are in school and learning “in a better way.”
“This experience has been hard on all kids — cyber and hybrid — and all of us are at our wits’ end,” Ava said.
Resident Susan Uffelman said she was “appalled” by the school board and administration. She said her son completed his studies and graduated early from Mt. Lebanon just last week.
“He had 12 days of in-person education since March. How any of you feel that is acceptable is beyond me,” Ms. Uffelman said.
Resident Joanna Crago asked if the board could hold a special meeting to vote on getting students back in the classroom full-time.
“Other schools are back already and we are months behind,” Ms. Crago said.
As far as increased in-person learning, Mr. Steinhauer said the current two-day-a-week hybrid model “allows us to de-densify to achieve the 6 feet of physical distance” recommended by the State Department of Education and Department of Heath.
“I want to be clear, increased in-person learning will mean we will not be able to maintain the 6 feet of distancing throughout the entire school day,” Mr. Steinhauer said.
The district is also planning for recovery options which may include summer learning and enrichment opportunities.
Although no timeline was given for completely reopening schools, Mr. Steinhauer said the next school board meeting is scheduled for Feb. 8 with its regular meeting on the 15th.
“It certainly would be the board’s decision to consider that on Feb. 8 and then have a week to consider that on the 15th,” Mr. Steinhauer said.
The board also unanimously passed a resolution stating the district would not raise taxes by more than its 3.5% Act 1 Index for the 2021-22 school year.
Mt. Lebanon’s Act 1 Index, which is the state’s means of determining property tax increases justified by wage inflation in each district, allows for a maximum increase of 0.8676 mills.
The 0.8676 mill figure would equate to an increase of about $86 in taxes per $100,000 of assessed property value in Mt. Lebanon and would net the district about $2.3 million. However, the board does not have to increase taxes by the full 0.8676 mills — that is the maximum that it can raise taxes.
Mt. Lebanon’s millage rate currently sits at 24.79, or about $2,479 for every $100,000 of assessed property value.
District director of business, Robert Geletko said at a previous meeting that even with the potential millage increase, the district would still have to use some of its fund balance to balance the 2021-22 budget.
Deana Carpenter, freelance writer: email@example.com.