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 firstname.lastname@example.org with questions, tips or Bulletin ideas. Follow along on Twitter with the hashtag #PGHed for news updates on Pittsburgh education.
08/31/21: PPS bus seat gap down, transportation questions for some families remain
The Pittsburgh Public Schools transportation seat gap is down to about 650 families who were notified by the school district Monday evening. The seat gap was nearly 11,000 at the start of summer.
The steep drop comes from a combination of strategies by the district including changing school start and end times, adding new bus carriers, expanding use of Port Authority, increasing walk zones and asking some families to release seats if they can transport students themselves.
The district alerted about 650 families on Monday evening that they were still in the district’s seat gap, which means the student’s bus still needs a driver. Families are eligible for a daily reimbursement for transporting their children until the district finds drivers.
The district anticipates this number will drop daily as new drivers are cleared and trained to service students, a Monday release said.
08/25/21: Vaccinations for PPS staff, earlier start times for students on the horizon
In a flurry of approvals on Wednesday, the Pittsburgh Public Schools board approved an agreement that will change school start and end times, and a resolution to require its staff to provide proof of vaccination or submit to weekly testing.
The board unanimously approved a resolution that directs the district solicitor and superintendent to enter talks with its bargaining units to push for mandatory staff vaccination. The approved resolution requires employees to provide proof of vaccination status “at a date to be determined” or submit to weekly testing. Masks will also be required for staff in district buildings.
Board unanimously approves the resolution to mandate staff to provide proof of vaccination "at a date to be determined" or submit to weekly testing. It also mandates employee mask wearing.— TyLisa C Johnson (@tylisawrites) August 26, 2021
The board also ratified a new collective bargaining agreement with the Pittsburgh Federation of Teacher that includes shifts to school start and end times, which the district claims will aid its ongoing transportation seat gap. Union members approved the tentative agreement on Monday. Nearly 88% of members who voted were in favor of the contract which will end June 30, 2024.
The agreement allows the in-person to five days a week, Hamlet said. It allows the multi-tiered bus schedule which will narrow seat gap challenges and allow more students to be transported to school. pic.twitter.com/XfHzKLMQGu— TyLisa C Johnson (@tylisawrites) August 26, 2021
Parents have decried the push for earlier school start times in letters and statements to the school board, online petitions and in-person protests. District officials continued to push for the modifications because their student transportation plans to resume in-person learning five days a week relied on the changes.
Other notable board approvals:
The board approved changes to the feeder pattern for Pittsburgh Faison K-5 and Pittsburgh Lincoln PreK-5. The change expands the feeder pattern for Lincoln to include families who live closer to Lincoln but are currently part of Pittsburgh Faison.
08/19/21: PPS to return Sept. 3, a compromise after parents and students blasted the delay
Pittsburgh Public Schools will resume classes on Sept. 3, following a unanimous vote by the nine-member school board to approve changes to the district’s 2021-2022 calendar on Wednesday evening.
The new calendar converts some typical vacation days to learning days, including election days in May and November and the day after Thanksgiving. It also adds snow days and approves Juneteenth as a holiday, among other changes.
The new end date for students would be June 16 and June 22 for teachers. pic.twitter.com/tGxJTt0HuD— TyLisa C Johnson (@tylisawrites) August 18, 2021
Following testimony from hundreds of students and parents in a public hearing that stretched two days, district leaders early Wednesday — ahead of two planned board meetings — pushed to change the proposed Sept. 8 start date to Sept. 3. The board pushed back the original start date of Aug. 25, drawing intense criticism from parents and some students.
Speaker 13 asks the board to consider the students who have AP exams in the spring and will need enough time to make it through lessons and prepare. pic.twitter.com/ezxDb3uIKx— TyLisa C Johnson (@tylisawrites) August 16, 2021
More than 900 viewers logged on to view the school board’s special legislative hearing and agenda review meetings which lasted nearly four hours Wednesday.
Board members gave impassioned remarks and questioned the superintendent and his cabinet about ongoing transportation challenges, communication with district parents and reported declines in enrollment.
Board member Kevin Carter says he agrees with much of his colleagues' sentiments. "I do think that we do need to accept the blame of how late we have gotten this information out to the community." He says he hopes an apology happens so "we can move forward stronger together." pic.twitter.com/DYCw95UUFL— TyLisa C Johnson (@tylisawrites) August 18, 2021
Several members said they planned to support the calendar change but went on to express concern about the timing of communicating to families the depth of the district’s transportation challenges.
"I think it was really amiss to not let the community know that this was a critical situation, which we knew about even last year and over the summer about transportation," Harbin says. "We just have to be upfront and clear as soon as we can about what is happening." pic.twitter.com/WecYeTBZwI— TyLisa C Johnson (@tylisawrites) August 18, 2021
We have to get every single kid to school or they can't be educated, Gallagher said during remarks, every kid should be in a seat in school.— TyLisa C Johnson (@tylisawrites) August 18, 2021
Board President Sylvia Wilson noted that the community members who gave testimony at the public hearing didn’t reflect the feelings of everyone in the district and that the board’s duty is to the whole district.
Board president Sylvia Wilson says reps from 18 out of 54 schools spoke at the hearing. Four schools out of 9 in her district spoke. "The majority of the parents who did speak came from one area of the city," Wilson said, we are here to represent all families and children in PPS. pic.twitter.com/4E8zb4XLql— TyLisa C Johnson (@tylisawrites) August 18, 2021
Superintendent Anthony Hamlet offered district parents an apology, saying the district will try to communicate sooner rather than later and may even oversaturate parents with information:
Hamlet apologizes to PPS families, saying they will try to increase communication and communicate sooner than later to know what's going on and how it impacts families and students. "I apologize as your leader and we will get better," Hamlet says. pic.twitter.com/Q4BNwRHTxZ— TyLisa C Johnson (@tylisawrites) August 18, 2021
The board also approved payments to parents as reimbursement for transporting some students to school:
12.03 approves board payments to reimburse parents for transporting students (but the board will come back to that later) pic.twitter.com/SC6TjlSCjz— TyLisa C Johnson (@tylisawrites) August 18, 2021
See the full Twitter thread here: https://twitter.com/tylisawrites/status/1428120257214943233?s=21
08/10/21: Pittsburgh Public to return in September
Citing transportation issues and a need to address concerns about masking up in sweltering August heat, the Pittsburgh Public Schools district announced Tuesday it would delay the start of its school year until Sept. 8. Teachers will return on Aug. 30.
School was initially set to begin on Aug. 25. The school calendar changes will be voted on by the school board at a special legislative meeting next week, Hamlet said.
“These are some difficult decisions we’re going through right now based on our current state and current context we’re in right now,” Hamlet said. The district’s priority, he continued, is getting students transportation to and from school and planning to avoid future transportation disruptions.
The late start will push the final days of the school year for students to June 22. The school year typically ends for students in early June. Teachers will finish the year on June 24.
- With an uncertain fall in the face of new COVID variants, Hamlet says hybrid and remote learning could be a possibility
“We don’t know where this delta variant is going. We don’t know where the Lambda variant is going,” Hamlet said. “There may be a hybrid, there may be remote based on various factors.”
- With all students set to return to school buildings, the district is short 426 bus drivers. The shortage is resulting in a lack of nearly 11,000 seats needed to transport students.. But officials say it’ll be solved in time for the return to school.
With adjustments to school start and end times, increased use of Port Authority buses and expanded walk zones, the district says it’ll decrease the seat gap to about 6,000. The district anticipates also bringing three new carriers on board to reduce the seat gap to zero, following a board vote later this month. The later start of school, district officials said, will give additional time to recruit and train bus drivers.
- In response to floating parent concerns about young students traveling on Port Authority buses at early times, Hamlet referenced a similar shift the district made last year at Pittsburgh CAPA 6-12, when they put 7th and 8th graders on Port Authority buses. He said the district received ‘thank you’ notes from parents in the weeks that followed, saying the travel gave their kids a new sense of independence.
“When it happened, of course there’s some angst because this is new, children might not be prepared to ride Port Authority, but we’ve put some supports in place to help kids transition,” Hamlet said.
The district said they work with community organizations and are putting student ambassadors in place to assist new Port Authority riders. They’ve also urged families to download Pittsburgh transit apps to familiarize themselves with routes they’ll be riding.
08/04/21: Teacher’s union agreement could lead to new school start, end times
As part of an announcement about a new collective bargaining agreement with the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers, the Pittsburgh Public Schools district noted that a shift in school start and end times may be on the horizon.
Multi-tiered scheduling of school start and end times could be enacted to address an ongoing school bus driver shortage and a gap in seat availability for students. The district said staggered transportation scheduling could increase the number of routes completed by bus drivers and, therefore, extend transportation to more students who need it.
The district said it has plans to share more information with parents and families about proposed adjustments to schools’ start and end times in the coming days.
In a Wednesday release, Superintendent Anthony Hamlet said he was thankful to reach a tentative agreement with the union that represents the 2,400 district teachers and professional employees.
The tentative agreement comes more than a year after the former contract expired in June 2020 and awaits approval by federation membership and the district’s board of directors.
07/29/21: Pittsburgh Public’s students will wear masks this fall
07/29/21: Top 2 PPS leaders go before council members to address city’s ‘educational emergency’
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
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
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
1/20/21: Another in-person instruction delay on the table for PPS
1/5/21: 5 takeaways from PPS’ first address of 2021
12/16/20: Pittsburgh Public passes 2021 budget without a tax increase. Here are 3 key takeaways.
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
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