PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – It’s been a challenge figuring out how to reopen schools safely this fall. With new more specific guidelines from the state, districts are working to put together a heath and safety plan.
“Guidance that we develop will be utilized one way by Pittsburgh Public Schools and another way in Montour,” said Pa. Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera.
Rivera sat down with KDKA to talk about reopening schools in the Commonwealth. He said there is no one-size-fits-all approach to sending kids back to school.
“Limiting face-to-face instruction is a real possibility as we look at social distancing guidelines,” Rivera said.
He said the goal is to have some type of in-person learning this fall. KDKA’s Nicole Ford asked him about teachers’ concerns. KDKA has heard from teacher unions that wearing a mask all day while teaching could hurt the child because they wouldn’t be able to see the teacher’s facial expressions.
Rivera told Ford that teachers should utilize face shields. He said the state’s guidelines only state facial coverings are required, not a specific type.
“Students can see your lips and mouth and see a teacher enunciate, which would provide a much better visible instruction to those students,” Rivera said.
When it comes to designing a social distanced school building, school administrators told KDKA it’s near impossible to space students out 6 feet in the current buildings.
The Secretary agreed and suggests that districts look to a hybrid approach.
“We have school districts that have identified A/B schedules, a.m./p.m. schedules, every other day schedules to provide some level of in-person instruction while complimenting it with virtual learning,” Rivera said.
Those different schedules could pose challenges for parents.
McKeesport Superintendent Dr. Mark Holtzman told KDKA more students could then turn to cyber charters or home education, which would diminish funding to the home district.
While districts are spending more money to meet these guidelines, KDKA asked the secretary how the state can help.
“We have to continue to work in Harrisburg to find policies that will continue to support cyber charter options, but support traditional schools so our policies don’t pin them against each other,” Rivera said.
His main message is to be patient. As the case numbers change, the guidelines will change, but he hopes each district will be ready to reopen safely next month.
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