The beneficiaries are Catholic schools like St. Bede’s and Sacred Heart.By Andy Sheehan

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — She went to Pittsburgh Public Schools as a kid and returned to the city intending to have her children do the same.

After the past year and a half of what she calls substandard education, Jen Murtazashvili said she has no choice but to pull her kids from the district.

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“They have not been able to learn effectively in 18 months. They haven’t been in school in 18 months. They haven’t been given the kind of education they deserve,” she said.

This fall, her four children will attend the Community Day School in Squirrel Hill.

(Photo Credit: KDKA)

They’re not alone. Catholic, private and charter schools are all reporting an influx of transfers from Pittsburgh Public Schools, as the district sheds thousands of students since the beginning of the pandemic.

Pittsburgh Public Schools said it cannot provide current enrollment figures until school opens.

But the loss of students kicked into overdrive during the pandemic. In the early months of the coronavirus pandemic, state education department figures show enrollment dropped by 1,200 students from 22,600 to 21,400.

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By spring, the exodus picked up steam. The district released the number of students returning to the classroom and those remaining remote. KDKA tallied those numbers with the district’s pre-K students and found enrollment dropped another 2,500 students to an alarming 18,900 students.

“So many parents are walking. Any that can are walking out of the school district,” Murtazashvili said

The beneficiaries are Catholic schools like St. Bede’s and Sacred Heart, which have seen an uptick in enrollment. Parents are drawn to those schools which, despite hurdles, maintained in-person instruction throughout the pandemic.

Said Michelle Peduto of the Diocese of Pittsburgh: “Frequent quarantines but we were able to maintain that five-day-a-week schedule for the students, which we think is so very important for emotional development, to their academic development, to their spiritual development.”

But James Fogerty of A-Plus Schools said many PPS families enrolled in cyber charter schools during the pandemic, and he believes many will come back if in-person instruction returns in the fall.

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“It’s so important we’re open five days a week. It’s critical for the success of this district. It’s critical for so many kids that the option is available. If not, we’re going to see the kinds of precipitous enrollment declines that we saw,” he said.