Pittsburgh Public School directors said Friday that the district plans to reopen to face-to-face learning next school year.
“As the number of people vaccinated increases and the restrictions on Covid-19 decrease, we look forward to the safe return of students five days a week in the fall,” Superintendent Anthony Hamlet said at a virtual press conference on Friday.
Hamlet said the district is working with partners from Giant Eagle and UPMC to make covid vaccines more accessible to students and their families, and the administrators outlined the proposed use of federal elementary and secondary school emergency funds to improve classrooms for health and security update.
PPS spent most of the last school year completely remote and welcomed the students in phases for a hybrid learning model from the beginning of April. The district welcomed its final cohorts of students back on May 3 for hybrid learning.
“I must stress that this is our goal, but we will always be ready to work for the health and safety of our students and staff if the CDC or state guidelines so require,” Hamlet said on Friday.
With the announcement, district administrators said they are still working to address a shortage of available bus seats that could keep students at home if they couldn’t find alternative means of transportation. The director of Pupil Transportation said at previous briefings that the district would need to hire 350 new drivers by the fall to accommodate all students who need a drive.
Michael McNamara, interim chief operations officer, said Friday that the district was still working on adding more transportation companies to its ranks, meeting with the port authority, and considering changing start times for students “to maximize efficiency To put children in buildings “.
The district is also evaluating whether students will have the option to remain on distance learning. Officials said two weeks ago that nearly 8,000 students have decided to stay on distance learning for the remainder of the school year.
“That is a question that we are about to investigate, whether that is a possibility and what that might look like,” said Hamlet. “In our minds right now, we expect all children to return or be able to return.”
For now, Hamlet said the district will not change its protocols regarding masking or social distancing. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Thursday that vaccinated people will be able to go without masks in most indoor situations. Hamlet said PPS and other districts are awaiting further instructions from the state education department.
However, he sees the relaxation of mask requirements as potentially beneficial for teachers and says face covering was “a necessary evil”.
Teghan Simonton is a contributor to Tribune Review. You can contact Teghan at 724-226-4680, firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter.