Pittsburgh Public Schools stopped its small scale reopening after just four days.By Andy Sheehan

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – While stores, restaurants and gyms remain at least partially open, more and more school districts have decided to cease classroom instruction. Teachers and administrators say it’s not safe, but some education advocates say remote learning is leaving students behind.

In Europe many countries like Germany are doing the opposite, closing businesses but keeping the schools open. Here the debate is heating up.

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While Pittsburgh’s Public Schools are closed to in-person instruction, teachers at the Center of Life Hub Learning Center in Hazelwood are helping about 30 public school kids stay on top of their online classes.

“Some kids who came to us maybe two weeks late had not logged in one time for the entire school year, so we’re able to sit with the kid during the day and make up for that missing work,” Sarah Crawshaw said.

But only about 900 of the district’s 23,000 students are getting help in non-profit hubs like Center of Life, which, like virtually all the others, has a waiting list. And the watchdog education group A-Plus Schools says those other students are getting shortchanged.

“Kids, especially black and brown children and high-poverty children, are falling way behind from the initial data that we have. We need kids to be back in school,” said James Fogarty with A-Plus Schools.

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But the trend is going in the opposite direction. New York City just closed down classroom instruction. Last week, Pittsburgh Public Schools stopped its small scale reopening after just four days.

“It’s not safe for students or teachers. With the small number of students we brought back, it was not safe in our schools,” Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers President Nina Esposito-Visgitis said.

Esposito-Visgitis says opening schools during this recent spike in COVID is out of the question.

“We have to get this virus under control before we move on with anything,” says Esposito-Visgitis

Advocates of reopening say it can be done safely following CDC protocol of masking and partitions in place like at Center of Life. But even teachers there say the Pittsburgh school district may be another story.

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“We’re lucky because we’re able to make sure our kids safe in this building but I don’t know if that would be the same if there are 35 kids in the classroom,” says Crashaw.