PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Pittsburgh Public Schools is changing its start date again.
PPS students will now head to the classrooms on Sept. 3. The district previously moved the start date from Aug. 25 to Sept. 8 because of a bus driver shortage.READ MORE: Parents Criticize Pittsburgh Public Schools Leaders During Community Hearing
The school board approved the latest calendar change with a 9-0 vote on Wednesday night. Right before the vote, PPS Superintendent Dr. Anthony Hamlet apologized to parents, students, and staff — saying the district will improve communications so everyone is on the same page.
“Before we move on, I want to as your leader, publicly apologize for the undue stress and ill will that we’ve caused our students, our families, our faculty and staff, our personnel. That’s something that we definitely do not want to do. We do not take it lightly and that’s something we will definitely consider in the future,” said Dr. Hamlet.
Before Wednesday’s board meeting, PPS families received a phone message from Hamlet notifying them of the change. Hamlet’s message said the new start date “allows all students to start as early as possible while also giving the District time to fully implement transportation strategies designed to meet the bus driver shortage and transport students to school every day.”
Mayor Bill Peduto weighed in on how the district’s uncertainty has been affecting families. He wonders why this wasn’t dealt with sooner.
“There’s an obligation to the families of Pittsburgh that the school district owes them and they owe them the ability to know with certainty when school will be open. So it’s good news to hear it’s five days sooner, but they still have to answer as to why they didn’t have this completed over the summer,” said Peduto.
Parents levied sharp criticism against administrators during a community hearing Tuesday. Some questioned the 11th-hour scramble to fill the bus driver shortage, which impacts more than 5,000 students. Others were frustrated with the proposed staggering of school start and end times so drivers could reach more schools. Parents also felt pushing the start of school back is unacceptable given that the district has known for months about the transportation shortage.READ MORE: Without Union Approval, Pittsburgh Public Schools Return Remains Uncertain
“I understand the challenges that many of our families have faced this past year and continue to face as we continue to manage the impacts of the COVID 19 pandemic. Our number one goal remains to have all students PreK 12 across the city in school 5 days a week for in-person instruction,” said Hamlet’s message.
School board president Sylvia Wilson said the district is doing everything it can to overcome the transportation issues.
“The parents were heard, they were listened to, and we are still doing what we can to make sure as many children get to school as possible,” said Wilson.
“The school board has been working on transportation since even before the school year ended,” Wilson added. “It just became apparent with the lack of drivers that we would have if we started school on August 25, 9,000 of our children would not be able to get to school.”
The board passed a few other agenda items involving transportation.
Board members approved entering an agreement with URSO Bus for transportation services, which includes one 25-passenger bus and one 14-passenger bus. Wilson said the company will shuttle students to the T.MORE NEWS: Pittsburgh Public Schools To Discuss Back To School Delay, Busing Issues
The board also approved extending a reimbursement opportunity for parents who transport their kids to school when the district cannot provide transportation.