Welcome to “By The Book: PGH K-12 Bulletins,” which provides updates on emerging and ever changing news in the Pittsburgh K-12 education landscape. With more than 40 school districts across Allegheny County, the Bulletins will update you on the region’s latest education news, including close coverage of the Pittsburgh Public Schools, other Allegheny County school districts, the Pennsylvania Department of Education and other important agencies, which serve thousands of Pittsburgh families. Please check back frequently and email tylisa@publicsource.org with questions, tips or Bulletin ideas. Follow along on Twitter with the hashtag #PGHed for news updates on Pittsburgh education.

7/29/21: Pittsburgh Public’s students will wear masks this fall

Vaccinated or not, students and staff in Pittsburgh Public Schools will be required to mask up this fall.

The Pittsburgh Public Schools Board of Education approved an updated district health and safety plan for the 2021-22 school year on Wednesday. 

The mask mandate aligns with updated CDC recommendations released Tuesday.

District students return to in-person instruction at the end of August. Cleaning and filtering supplies were improved and upgraded. Students will still distance 3 feet from each other.

For some, however, questions remain about the logistics of bringing back the district’s 20,000 students.

Aside from the health and safety plan, the board also approved: 

Nearly $50 million in the second round of COVID aid

The board accepted $49,541,438 in emergency relief, or ESSER II funds, from the state’s Department of Education to address indoor air quality, invest in technology and reliable wifi infrastructure and other district needs arising amid the COVID-19 pandemic. ESSER II funds can be spent from March 2020 through September 2023.

Alice training, despite mild contention

Three of the nine members voted against the training used to prepare for school shooting scenarios after voicing concern about the need and effectiveness of Alice training. 

Still, the board approved payments of $650 and $16,500 to the Alice Training Institute for ALICE recertification and certification training.

TyLisa C. Johnson covers education for PublicSource. She can be reached at tylisa@publicsource.org or on Twitter at @tylisawrites.

7/29/21: Top 2 PPS leaders go before council members to address city’s ‘educational emergency’

For the first time on Wednesday, Pittsburgh Public’s Board President Sylvia Wilson and Superintendent Anthony Hamlet met with multiple Pittsburgh City Council members to discuss the district’s plans to improve academic achievement in the city’s public schools.

 Council members Daniel Lavelle and Rev. Ricky Burgess declared a state of emergency in Pittsburgh in February, citing the dueling challenges of COVID and persisting academic achievement gaps and underperformance. 

Lavelle and Burgess have hosted three meetings and two public hearings on the resolution so far, inviting guests from local education and advocacy organizations. 

In a brief presentation, Hamlet outlined district financial challenges, spending and plans. He said it will take collaboration with people from across industries and neighborhoods to ensure students have better academic outcomes in the city’s public schools.

Burgess and Lavelle wanted to know just how much students have been impacted academically by COVID, which led to students being out of school buildings and in virtual learning for a year. Lavelle asked if the district was able to monitor learning loss.

But the answer was murky. 

See the full thread here: https://twitter.com/tylisawrites/status/1420439120694976516 

TyLisa C. Johnson covers education for PublicSource. She can be reached at tylisa@publicsource.org or on Twitter at @tylisawrites.

June recap:

06/30/21: New state budget funnels millions to public education
06/17/21: Staff shortages at PPS’ Summer BOOST, district may cut more than 1,000 students

May recap:

5/25/21: Allegheny County names first director of Department of Children Initiatives
5/14/21: All students, five days a week this fall, district leaders say

March recap:

3/24/21: By May 3, all PPS students will return, district leaders say
3/19/21: No changes for PPS based on CDC guidance and more news on students’ return to schools

January recap:

1/20/21: Another in-person instruction delay on the table for PPS
1/5/21: 5 takeaways from PPS’ first address of 2021

December recap:

12/16/20: Pittsburgh Public passes 2021 budget without a tax increase. Here are 3 key takeaways.
12/15/20: For the 2021 Pittsburgh Public budget, a property tax hike is on the table
12/11/20: Advocates call out a lack of state special ed funding in PA as costs skyrocket
12/10/20: Q&A: A chance to change – One PA advocate on what PPS should fund instead of school police in 2021 budget
TyLisa C. Johnson covers education for PublicSource. She can be reached at tylisa@publicsource.org.

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TyLisa C. Johnson is the Audience Engagement Editor at PublicSource. She’s passionate about telling compelling human stories that intersect with complex issues affecting marginalized groups. Before joining...