Jessica Salfia standing in her empty classroom

In the union strongholds of Southwest PA and WV, labor struggles for health benefits echo in teacher union vaccination efforts

Unions for workers in the steel and coal industries fought for healthcare benefits and better job conditions for those workers.
Those struggles have informed the tactics of teachers unions to this day — particularly notable during the COVID-19 pandemic amid a vaccine rollout and clamoring for a return to in-person teaching. I

Amber York (left), a youth development professional with Boys & Girls Clubs of Western Pennsylvania serving through AmeriCorps, sits with students during a gym period at the organization's Lawrenceville location. (Photo by Ryan Loew/PublicSource)

How Pittsburgh-area learning hubs helped students through COVID and could change how public education is delivered

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Wanika Steele has clocked into the same job for 14 years. But in September, she put in her two-week notice. She feared her 10-year-old son, Ty’Kir, would have no one to facilitate his new full-time virtual learning experience. “I was ready to actually quit my job so I could be home,” said Steele, 45. But four days before her notice took effect, as if her very own deus ex machina, the Thelma Lovette YMCA learning hub in the Hill District announced it would open for students in kindergarten through middle school.

Juan Perez is senior director of program excellence at Boys & Girls Clubs of Western Pennsylvania's Carnegie clubhouse. (Photo by Ryan Loew/PublicSource)

At Boys & Girls Clubs of Western PA, we mobilized to support a learning hub during the pandemic. It’s here where I saw inequities playing out up close.

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2020. Those four digits bring up a myriad of feelings for everyone who lived through the year that will be forever remembered in the annals of history. The year started off ominous enough with the Australian bushfires, the tragic death of Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven others. Promising young lives cut short and a legend lost. It seems 2020 was trying to get us ready for something none of us could have ever imagined.

Photo of a high school senior.

As the pandemic upends normal college visits, high school seniors seek a different view of campus

The deadly virus reduced national college enrollment, particularly for students of color. The percentage of high school graduates who went to college immediately after high school fell by more than a fifth last fall. Colleges and universities have made attempts to adapt recruiting efforts to avoid a similar or more severe drop from this batch of high school seniors, but it is unclear how students will respond, even amid vaccine distribution.

Educators networking at a Remake Learning event in 2014. Photo by Ben Filio for Remake Learning.

Remake Learning collaborates with leaders around the world during Learning Planet Festival

In India, children as young as four are beginning to learn about sustainability and climate change through play. In Nigeria, early-career teachers are being mentored to bring innovative techniques to classrooms and learn to change the world. And in the Pittsburgh region, a series of “moonshot grants,” inspired by last year’s Tomorrow Grants, will soon offer $1.1 million to fund experimental ideas for the future of learning. These learning initiatives, and many more, were on display earlier this week during the international Learning Planet festival, which convened — virtually, for the Covid era — a global community of education thinkers and innovators. Their goal?

Pittsburgh Public board again delays student return to in-school learning, calls on district to survey needs

Pittsburgh Public students won’t return to brick-and-mortar school buildings until April 6 at the earliest, following a decision by the school board Wednesday evening and a two-day, 127-speaker public hearing in the days leading up to the decision. 

The board approved a resolution in a 7-2 vote, following amendments, to keep students at home in remote learning through the beginning of the school year’s fourth quarter. Board members Sala Udin and Devon Taliaferro voted against the amended resolution, signaling a desire to bring students and teachers back sooner than April. Board members Pam Harbin and Terry Kennedy presented an amended version of the original resolution at Wednesday’s meeting, which had more than 1,000 stream viewers, with additions to address transportation challenges and growing student needs. Among the changes to the resolution:

The district is expected to conduct a current survey of student needs for support, transportation availability, staffing levels and building health and safety protocols. A parent/guardian survey will be circulated on or before Feb.

Voice your struggles: Pittsburgh university students create spaces to talk about mental health during the pandemic

Facing a deepening pandemic, another stretch of mostly online classes and a national backdrop of political turmoil, Pittsburgh-area students are turning to their colleges — and to each other — to meet growing mental health needs. Kayla Koch, a senior at the University of Pittsburgh, said students were already struggling with the transition that college life brings, but the pandemic has made everything harder. “The entire pandemic is a time of trauma," Koch said. "We are all living through a trauma and expected to produce and exist as if we are not.”

She's working to create a space for students to talk honestly about mental health. “Our goal is to come into these meetings and say, ‘This is normal.