MT. LEBANON, Pa. (KDKA) — The Mt. Lebanon School Board voted unanimously Thursday to start the first nine weeks of the school year online. The superintendent said it is the safest plan amid the ongoing public health crisis.

The district emphasized it plans on getting students back to in-person learning as soon as possible.

More than 1,400 residents joined the virtual school board meeting on Thursday to discuss back-to-school plans for the more than 5,500 students. Dozens of speakers addressed the board.

When the district previously made it known it wanted to hold the first nine weeks of the school year virtually, many parents said it caught them by surprise.

Some parents and students protested Wednesday night along Washington Road. Many students were holding signs saying “I miss my friends” and “Show up #Choice.”

Mt. Lebanon says after the governor’s office released new recommendations on how schools should reopen, the district heard from about 150 teachers and staff who indicated they would not be able to provide in-person learning for various health reasons.

However, many parents and students said they wanted more options such as in-person learning or a hybrid model. Some parents suggested substitutes come in if the district’s teachers are worried about returning.

The district said they would not have had enough staff for a hybrid model.

Those in favor of the remote start feel the plan provides the greatest protection to the community by mitigating possible community spread. Many also said the plan provides the greatest educational consistency.

There were also many who said a remote start highlights unfair challenges to working parents, single parents, athletes and students with individual education plans.