By: KDKA-TV News Staff
PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Pittsburgh Public Schools is once again pushing back the return of in-person learning.READ MORE: City Council Member Says Inspection Standards Must Increase After Pittsburgh Bridge Collapse
The board voted 7-2 Wednesday evening to delay students’ return to the classroom until April 6 after spring break. The second-largest school district in the state hasn’t been in the classroom since the coronavirus pandemic started in March.
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“In this resolution, when we are safely able to phase students back into the buildings, we do it based on need,” said board member Pam Harbin. “And there will be criteria that is applied ”
The resolution was presented during last week’s agenda review meeting. The original plan was to have students return in February. The board’s decision comes after two nights of public hearings where the board heard the opinions of many parents, students and teachers.
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It was a tough decision for school leaders to make because some parents say they want their kids back in school — not only for their education, but also for their mental health and well-being.READ MORE: Frick Park Bridge Collapse: 10 People Injured, 4 Sent To Hospital
“It sickens me to hear teachers say that they fear for their health as an excuse not to get themselves or their students back into the classroom,” said parent Amanda Dick.
Before making a decision, school board member Kevin Carter had some heated comments for the board about its handling of the matter.
“We didn’t discuss the safety aspects of this the way that we should, and now we are in a very precarious position to have to keep school open or closed. And it pisses me off,” said Carter.
Many teachers and staff say they want to get the COVID-19 vaccine before they walk inside a school building. The teachers union said they’re anxious to get back to their students, but they want to do it once they’ve received both doses of the vaccine.
“It’s hard for me to understand the justification for sending staff back into a much riskier situation now when we are weeks away from obtaining the extra level of protection the vaccine will provide,” said Pittsburgh South Brook 6-8 teacher Joel Grimes.
To try and get back to in-person learning, PPS said it’s working with the county health department and UPMC to develop a plan to vaccinate staff and bus drivers sooner. Teachers are in the state’s 1B phase. The state is currently in Phase 1A with roughly 140,000 of the 4 million people in that group fully vaccinated.MORE NEWS: Pittsburgh Bridge Collapse: Fern Hollow Bridge Had 'Poor' Rating Since 2011
A few other concerns to re-opening school doors sooner rather than later were the lack of substitute teachers to fill in case teachers have to quarantine.