Pittsburgh Public Schools students are returning to classrooms

Young students wearing masks entered the doors and were greeted by school staff, including Principal Nathan Berkowicz.

“This was very, very exciting today,” Berkowicz said. “I didn’t sleep a wink last night. This has been a year in the making since the students have last been in the building.”

Inside the school, stickers were on floors to remind students to keep 6 feet of distance, though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now says 3 feet will suffice.

Teachers sat in classrooms behind their plastic shields near rearranged student desks.

It may not be perfect, but Berkowicz said in-person learning is the focus here.

“It’s very difficult in a remote environment — you know, students holding devices and keeping their attention span — so at that age, it’s real important to get them in front of their teachers,” Berkowicz said.

When you don’t get students in front of teachers, Pittsburgh Public Schools Superintendent Anthony Hamlet said the educating starts to become undone, which is why expanded summer learning and Saturday courses are being explored for potentially 6,000 students.

“That’s something we’re planning for next year, and, so, traditionally, being in the situation we are with the learning loss, we’ve already had the summer slide, now what I call the COVID slide coupled with the summer slide, we know some kids will be behind,” Hamlet said.

To bring the students up to speed for later, day one for in-person is the first step.

“I was always confident we would be here at some point,” Hamlet said.

Source: Pittsburgh Public Schools students are returning to classrooms

Jen Psaki stands by San Diego schools’ decision to provide in-person teaching for migrants | Daily Mail Online

Parents are angry over plans for teachers providing in-person instruction to migrant children while their kids have been stuck at home slogging through virtual Zoom sessions.

  • Biden’s press secretary Jen Psaki has stood by the decision in San Diego schools
  • Teachers have been working with 500 migrants who have crossed the border 
  • The children are currently on Spring Break, but have yet to return to classrooms since the start of the pandemic  
  • Psaki said ‘context is important’ and teachers can ‘volunteer’ on Spring Break
  • She added that San Diego students will be going back to classrooms ‘early April’
  • The Biden administration has promised that students will return to the classroom five days a week 

Source: Jen Psaki stands by San Diego schools’ decision to provide in-person teaching for migrants | Daily Mail Online

Pittsburgh Public Schools prepared for April 6 reopening – Pittsburgh Current

About 4,800 Pittsburgh students are expected to return on April 6. They are a group that includes PreK and kindergarten students and others who have been determined to not be making progress in eLearning, who have disabilities, are English language learners or in other vulnerable groups.

On April 26 another cohort of about 5,200 students —  those who were making “some” progress — will be brought back to the classrooms.

On May 3 the remainder of students, a group of about 10,000, will return.

The majority of students will attend via a hybrid model, with some in class on Mondays and Tuesdays and others attending Thursdays and Fridays. Schools will be cleaned on Wednesdays, when all students learn online.

Source: Pittsburgh Public Schools prepared for April 6 reopening – Pittsburgh Current

Biden Administration Steps Up Push for School Reopenings – The New York Times

MERIDEN, Conn. — Having told educators that they would soon be vaccinated, the Biden administration began an aggressive push on Wednesday to drum up support for reopening schools, putting on a show of unity with the leaders of teachers unions and highlighting measures to keep students and staff safe from the coronavirus.

A day after President Biden announced a new federal program to give teachers nationwide access to at least a first dose of the vaccine by the end of March, the administration sought to position itself as intent on opening schools as soon as possible while also addressing the concerns of teachers that their fears were being ignored.

To carry the message, the White House dispatched the first lady, Jill Biden, and the newly confirmed education secretary, Miguel Cardona, on a trip to Connecticut and Pennsylvania to emphasize that teachers should no longer fear returning unprotected to the classroom. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said that teachers do not have to be vaccinated for schools to reopen safely.

Getting shots into the arms of educators and school staff would be his “top priority” as education secretary, Dr. Cardona said in Connecticut, where he and the first lady were joined by Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers.

Source: Biden Administration Steps Up Push for School Reopenings – The New York Times

Gov. Wolf says Pa. will vaccinate teachers, staff with J&J shot | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Gov. Tom Wolf on Wednesday said the state will give the Johnson & Johnson single-dose COVID-19 vaccine to PreK-12 teachers and other school staff, an announcement that comes as Pittsburgh Public Schools employees are expected to return to their buildings this month for the first time in a year.

Source: Gov. Wolf says Pa. will vaccinate teachers, staff with J&J shot | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Biden erases Dr. Seuss from ‘Read Across America’ proclamation as progressives seek to cancel beloved author | Fox News

President Biden appears to have erased Dr. Seuss from “Read Across America Day”, the annual celebration of reading in honor of the legendary children’s author, whose birthday falls on March 2.

While Biden followed presidential tradition in proclaiming Tuesday “Read Across America Day,” he bucked his predecessors by leaving out any mention of Dr. Seuss from the proclamation.

The White House didn’t immediately return a request for comment on why Dr. Seuss was left out of the proclamation, but the snub comes as progressives have sought to cancel the beloved children’s author.

One of Virginia’s biggest school districts, Loudoun County Public Schools, reportedly nixed Dr. Seuss from the school’s “Read Across America Day” celebration, citing alleged racial “undertones” in his children’s books.

Source: Biden erases Dr. Seuss from ‘Read Across America’ proclamation as progressives seek to cancel beloved author | Fox News

Miguel Cardona Confirmed By Senate To Be Biden Education Secretary : NPR

The U.S. Department of Education will have a new leader. Late Monday, in a 64 to 33 vote, the U.S. Senate confirmed Miguel Cardona to be the next Secretary of Education.

Before being nominated by President Biden, Cardona served as Connecticut’s education commissioner for the past year and a half, arguing forcefully that schools should reopen during the COVID-19 crisis in order to keep equity gaps from growing ever wider. Before that, he spent his entire career working for the public school system that helped raise him — as a fourth grade teacher, principal and assistant superintendent in the old factory town of Meriden, Conn.

Cardona assumes the Education Department’s top job as the debate around how to safely reopen schools has grown increasingly bitter, with many parents clamoring for children to be able to return to classrooms and with many teachers resisting a return before all educators have been vaccinated. That has forced Biden to walk a political tightrope, reassuring teachers they should be prioritized for the vaccine while new guidance from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention makes clear that vaccinations should not be a prerequisite for reopening schools.

Source: Miguel Cardona Confirmed By Senate To Be Biden Education Secretary : NPR

Possible ‘prank’ prompted lockdown at Latrobe Elementary School, officials say | TribLIVE.com

 

What police believe may have been a prank 911 call on Wednesday shut down Latrobe Elementary School as authorities investigated a reported threat, according to Greater Latrobe district officials.

The situation was cleared just before 2 p.m. and no one was hurt. Anxious parents who gathered outside the police perimeter on Lincoln Avenue were told that dismissal would happen at the normal time.

City and state police were called to the Cedar Street school just before 1 p.m. Officers searched the building after an anonymous phone call was made to Westmoreland 911 reporting a threat. All district buildings were locked down as a result.

“The agencies believe this threat may have been a prank,” district officials said in a Facebook post.

Latrobe police said they were investigating the source of the call that was found to be not credible. Anyone with information is asked to call police at 724-537-5526. Officers from other nearby departments assisted at the scene.

Source: Possible ‘prank’ prompted lockdown at Latrobe Elementary School, officials say | TribLIVE.com

Columbia professor: I do heroin regularly for ‘work-life balance’

Carl Hart is a Columbia University professor of psychology and neuroscience. He chairs the psych department and has a fondness for heroin – not only as a subject of scholarly pursuit but also as a substance for personal use.

At 54, the married father of three has snorted small amounts of heroin for as many as 10 days in a row and enjoyed it mightily – even if, as he recalls in his new book “Drug Use for Grown-ups: Chasing Liberty in the Land of Fear” (Penguin Press), he’s experienced mild withdrawal symptoms “12 to 16 hours after the last dose.”

But, as Hart sees it, the discomfort is a worthwhile trade-off.

Source: Columbia professor: I do heroin regularly for ‘work-life balance’

Chicago Public Schools reaches tentative agreement with teachers union, mayor says – CNN

(CNN)Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot says city officials have reached a tentative agreement with the Chicago Teachers Union, paving the way for some Chicago Public Schools students to return to in-person learning over the next several weeks.

The plan still needs to be ratified by the CTU’s house of delegates, officials acknowledged in a news conference Sunday. The union, prior to the news conference, said it did “not yet have an agreement” with city officials, indicating it would continue discussions with its rank-and-file members throughout Sunday.

“We are here to announce the very good news that our children will be returning to in-person learning this week,” Lightfoot said in a news conference Sunday.”

This agreement was about making sure everyone in our school communities just aren’t safe, but also that they feel safe,” Lightfoot said, “And feel that their lived experiences and fears and frustrations have been heard.”

Officials for the city and the nation’s third largest school district have been at odds with the teachers union over Covid-19 reopening plans. Mayor Lightfoot and CPS officials, including CEO Janice Jackson, have said in-person learning is safe with Covid-19 mitigation strategies. But the CTU had maintained teachers and students remained at risk if they return to the classroom too soon.

Source: Chicago Public Schools reaches tentative agreement with teachers union, mayor says – CNN

Breaking: Pittsburgh Public Schools introduce plan to close 8 schools, reassign students over the next two years – Pittsburgh Current

Pittsburgh Public Schools administration has introduced a proposal to close eight schools over the next two years.

By Mary Niederberger
Pittsburgh Current Education Writer
Mary@Pittsburghcurrent.com

As part of its new strategic plan “Imagine PPS,” and to help reduce a $39.4 million budget deficit, the Pittsburgh Public Schools administration has introduced a proposal to close eight schools over the next two years.

The only closing slated for the 2021-22 school year is Woolslair PreK-5, with students reassigned to Arsenal PreK-5. Also in the coming school year, the proposal calls for moving the program for students with disabilities at Oliver Citywide Academy though a new location has not yet been designated.

The plan also calls for creating two regional middle schools — an East End middle school at Minadeo School and a Career Middle School at the former Oliver High School building. In addition, the plan calls for a “Birth to Second Grade” school in Northview Heights.

The schools proposed for closure in 2022-2023 are: Allegheny 6-8, Arsenal 6-8, Fulton Prek-5, Manchester PreK-5, Miller Prek-5, Minadeo Prek-5  and Sterrett 6-8. In addition, the Morrow primary building and the Montessori building will close, but the schools will be moved to different facilities.

The plan was presented at the board’ business and finance committee meeting on Monday Feb. 1. The school board will hold a special legislative session at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday to vote on the process that will allow for public input and planning on the proposal.

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Source: Breaking: Pittsburgh Public Schools introduce plan to close 8 schools, reassign students over the next two years – Pittsburgh Current

Keystone Oaks teachers plan to go on strike Monday – Post Gazette

By Hallie Lauer:

The teachers at Keystone Oaks School District announced Sunday that they will go on strike Monday, as they and the district’s board of school directors have not yet reached an agreement on a new contract.

Classes are canceled until further notice. However, the district must complete 180 days of school by June 15, according to state law, which leaves the union only six days to strike.

That means the strike can last no longer than Feb. 9, based on the number of makeup days the district has remaining.

“Our hope is that an agreement can be reached and students can return to classes as soon as possible,” Superintendent William Stropkaj said in a statement on the school district’s website.

The teachers association had originally announced on Jan. 22 that they had intentions to strike Feb. 1. Pennsylvania state law requires at least a 48-hour notice for teachers to strike.

After negotiations on Thursday and Sunday, the two groups were not able to come to an agreement.

“When we met today, we came to the realization that neither one of us were going to compromise,” association president Kevin Gallagher said. “It just wasn’t going to happen, as sad as that is. I understand that this does not look good in terms of a pandemic, but this is the third time we’ve been in this situation with the district in the last four years, and we just can’t stand for it anymore.”

Currently, there are no negotiation meetings scheduled, according to Mr. Gallagher. The association is willing to meet at a neutral site off campus to continue discussions, he said.

Teachers will be picketing at Aiken, Dormont and Myrtle elementary schools as well as at the Keystone Oaks high school and middle school complex beginning Monday.

Keystone Oaks teachers have been without a contract since June. 30, 2020.

Athletic practices and games will continue as normal for sports that are in season, according to the announcement.

The free meals program also will continue with curbside pick-up at each building.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the district was operating on a hybrid schedule where students attend classes in person and online throughout the week.

Hallie Lauer: hlauer@post-gazette.com

Source: Keystone Oaks teachers plan to go on strike tomorrow

Mt. Lebanon residents call for students to return to classes | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

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: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com.

Source: Mt. Lebanon residents call for students to return to classes | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Study: Very Smart Dogs Learn Words Quickly | Newsmax.com

Think your dog is smart? New research suggests one way to find out.

Most dogs can’t learn words without extensive training, but a few with exceptional abilities learn words without any formal training, researchers report. They learn words simply by playing with their owners.

The team of Hungarian researchers investigated how quickly two of these talented pooches could learn new words.

Their study included a Border Collie named Whisky from Norway — already famous for her spontaneous categorization skills — and a Yorkshire terrier named Vicky Nina, from Brazil.

“Importantly, in both conditions the dogs heard the name of the new toy only four times,” Fugazza said.

Read Newsmax: Study: Very Smart Dogs Learn Words Quickly | Newsmax.com

Source: Study: Very Smart Dogs Learn Words Quickly | Newsmax.com

Teachers say they want the Covid-19 vaccine before they head back to the classroom

CHICAGO – Children who have been marooned at home for months by the pandemic are slowly returning to classrooms, but many teachers say they won’t go back until they’ve received the Covid-19 vaccine.

Especially in Chicago, the nation’s third-largest public school district, where teachers who were supposed to return to classrooms Wednesday worked from home again and are once more threatening to strike.

Source: Teachers say they want the Covid-19 vaccine before they head back to the classroom

Meeting over return date for Pittsburgh Public Schools draws mixed reaction

This comes days after the district said it is looking into possibly delaying the return of in-person classes until April.

The virtual public meeting lasted over three hours with more than 70 speakers voicing their concerns and support for a return to the classroom in February.

With coronavirus cases still high, board president Sylvia Wilson proposed the resolution to delay the hybrid return until April 6 last week.

Many teachers backed the proposal.

Students are currently set to return to a blend of in-person and online instruction on Feb. 8.

Some parents are becoming increasingly frustrated in the face of another delay, worried that their children are falling behind.

“The PPS school board’s decision to continue with virtual only learning has wreaked havoc on my child’s social and emotional development, on our family’s finances and our family in general,” one parent said during Monday’s meeting.

Others pleaded with the district to at least start small, asking to bring in younger students or those who are struggling the most with virtual learning.

“Let’s choose one group and get started. Please, please don’t delay the return of school until April 6. It’s going to be so messy getting kids back to school during this pandemic. But let’s accept the messiness and just start trying,” one parent said.

The board will vote on the delay during a board meeting on Wednesday. If approved, a hybrid schedule would begin on April 6.

Source: Meeting over return date for Pittsburgh Public Schools draws mixed reaction

Pittsburgh Public Schools board members propose plan to keep students in virtual learning until April 6

Several members of the Pittsburgh Public Schools board proposed a plan to keep students in virtual learning until after Spring Break, April 6, during a board meeting on Wednesday.

The board said this would postpone the phased-in approach until after the anticipated rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine to employees.

The board will vote on the resolution at its legislative meeting next week, Jan. 27.“No one wants students back in school more than I do,” Board President Sylvia, who brought forward the resolution, said in a news release. “With COVID-19 numbers lingering in the substantial range and the genuine concerns raised by our teachers and staff of returning before the vaccine is available to them, I have to support the tough decision to postpone the return of students for in-person learning.”

Source: Pittsburgh Public Schools board members propose plan to keep students in virtual learning until April 6

Allegheny County Department of Human Services and local foundations partner to keep learning hubs open – Pittsburgh Current

By Mary Niederberger
Pittsburgh Current Education Writer
mary@pittsburghcurrent.com

A month ago, the future of the community learning hubs that were serving more than 1,700 students who needed a supervised setting during online school days in the fall was uncertain as initial funding was running dry.

But now, the Allegheny County Department of Human Services has partnered with local foundations to ensure that 60 hubs throughout the county will remain open through the school year if they are needed.

Elaine Plunkett, DHS communications specialist, said the department has already secured $500,000 in foundation funding and is applying for grants with additional foundations at the same time it is leveraging department funds to keep the hubs in operation.

Currently, three foundations have agreed to provide some funding. Those foundations and grant amounts are: the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation, $100,000; Jefferson Regional Foundation, $200,000; and McElhattan Foundation $200,000.

“The 60 learning hubs (30 are outside of Pittsburgh) are critical resources for children and families,” Plunkett wrote in an email.

Those sentiments were echoed by James Fogarty, executive director of A+Schools advocacy group.

Source: Allegheny County Department of Human Services and local foundations partner to keep learning hubs open – Pittsburgh Current