At Serra, COVID-19 Means ‘Chrome from Home’

April 29, 2020 |

By Richard Finch Jr. | Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

Related stories:

School Districts Adapting To ‘New Normal,’ With Virtual Learning Challenges

Clairton Adapts With Help from Community

South Allegheny Wants to Provide Equal Playing Field


Switching to distance learning during the coronavirus pandemic has been easier for some schools than others.

Serra Catholic High School, located in McKeesport’s Haler Heights neighborhood, is a “1:1” school. Since 2013, it has provided a laptop for each of its nearly 300 students, said Robert Childs, associate principal.

Serra uses Google Chromebook laptops and does a yearly survey to make sure all families can connect to the Internet at home, Childs said. The school was already using online, flexible instruction during snow days — what students and teachers refer to as “Chrome from Home” days.

The school, Childs said, “is in a fortunate place” when it comes to online learning.

 
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School Districts Adapting To ‘New Normal,’
With Virtual Learning Challenges

April 29, 2020 |

By Richard Finch Jr. | Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

Last week, State Sen. Jim Brewster joined other volunteers to help pass out “grab-n-go” meals to students in Duquesne City School District. (Photo courtesy state Sen. Jim Brewster)


Related stories:

At Serra High, COVID-19 Means ‘Chrome from Home’

Clairton Meets Challenge With Help from Community

South Allegheny Wants to Provide Equal Playing Field


In towns across the Mon Valley, school buses now deliver “grab-n-go” breakfasts and lunches to students who no longer can gather together in cafeterias.

Instead of homerooms and classrooms, teachers are using Google Hangouts and other online resources to connect with their students, allowing them to hold virtual office hours to check on the well-being and academic progress of young people they can no longer meet with face-to-face.

The unprecedented lengthy school closures caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have created challenges for teachers and students, as almost none of the school districts in the Mon Valley — or elsewhere — were prepared to engage in distance learning for an extended period of time.

School district officials were mostly left to find their own solutions, and as the struggle continues, local educators said lessons are being learned on the fly.

“I think, unfortunately, we’re shifting into a new normal for the short-term, maybe even medium-term, and so it’s a challenge on what the needs of the community are and how we can best serve them,” said Edward Wehrer, superintendent of the Steel Valley School District.

 
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Pandemic Benefits Website Goes Online

April 19, 2020 |

By Staff Reports | Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

(Commonwealth of Pennsylvania photo)


One day after a local state representative went public with his criticism over the slow rollout of unemployment benefits for some Pennsylvania workers, the website went live and began accepting applications.

On Saturday, Jerry Oleksiak, state Secretary of Labor & Industry, said that the self-employed, independent contractors and gig workers who cannot file for regular unemployment compensation can now begin applying for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefits.

Applications can be filed online at https://pua.benefits.uc.pa.gov/.

 
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Kane Director Says ‘Biggest Priority’
is Resident, Staff Safety

April 17, 2020 |

By Jason Togyer | Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

Allegheny County officials said Friday they have a “singular focus” on protecting residents and employees of the four Kane Community Living Centers from novel coronavirus.

Since March 25, 83 cases of COVID-19 have been reported at the Glen Hazel center, including 59 residents and 24 employees, according to data released Friday. The facility is licensed for 255 beds.

Four residents of the Glen Hazel center have died from COVID-19, including three at the facility and one in a hospital. Two residents are currently hospitalized, county officials said.

There are two cases of coronavirus at the McKeesport center, including one staff member who tested positive on Monday, and one resident who is currently in isolation, said Dennis Biondo, executive director of the county-owned and operated Kane facilities.

 
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Davis: Swifter Action Needed on Jobless Claims

April 17, 2020 |

By Jason Togyer | Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

State Rep. Austin Davis, shown during a March 11 tour of Steel Center for Career and Technical Education in Jefferson Hills, said Pennsylvania’s rollout of unemployment benefits for independent contractors “has been mired in red tape.” (Submitted photo courtesy of state Rep. Austin Davis)


A state representative from the Mon Valley said Friday that Pennsylvania is moving too slowly to address delays and problems that are keeping some workers from collecting unemployment benefits during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Our working families are suffering — they are struggling — because they are not getting access to the unemployment compensation benefits to which they’re entitled,” said state Rep. Austin Davis, Democrat of McKeesport.

“The problem has been compounded for self-employed, independent contractors and gig workers, who are still waiting for directions on where to file,” Davis said.

 
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Advocates Call for Rent, Mortgage Forgiveness

April 17, 2020 |

By Emily Pidgeon | Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

State Rep. Sara Innamorato speaks during an online town hall Wednesday. (Screenshot via Zoom/Facebook)


More than 1 million Pennsylvanians have applied for unemployment benefits since Gov. Tom Wolf implemented his stay-at-home order on March 23, and many of those filers also rent or mortgage their homes. 

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to grip the world, the order has been extended through April 30, and renters and homeowners remain unsure of the future.

During the “Freedom to Stay” virtual town hall meeting held Wednesday night, members of local and statewide community action groups called on state representatives, senators and local officials to introduce legislation cancelling rent and mortgage payments for residents.

“We’re in unprecedented times, so we need unprecedented legislation,” said state Rep. Sara Innamorato, Democrat from Pittsburgh’s Lawrenceville neighborhood.

 
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Brick Repairs Underway at People’s Building

April 15, 2020 |

By Jason Togyer | Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

A worker from Arch Masonry & Restoration of Lawrenceville maneuvers a crane platform into position at the People’s Building, Downtown. (Tube City Almanac photo)


Repairs are underway at the People’s Building, Downtown, after a section of brick near the eighth floor began to crack and peel away from the structure.

Although most construction work in Pennsylvania has been ordered shut down by Gov. Tom Wolf due to the coronavirus pandemic, emergency repairs are allowed to continue — and building owner Jonathan Stark said the brick repairs qualify.

“Any time you do a repair of that scope and size, at that height, it is dangerous, and we were concerned that it might fall onto Lysle Boulevard,” he said.

 
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Oursler ‘Blown Away’ By Unemployment Stats

April 12, 2020 |

By Nick Zurawsky | Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

Barney Oursler, director of the Mon Valley Umemployed Committee, testifies at an Allegheny County Sanitary Authority hearing in 2012. (Clean Rivers Pittsburgh via YouTube)


Nearly 405,000 Pennsylvanians filed an initial claim for unemployment compensation in the last week of March, according to the U.S. Employment and Training Administration. A month earlier, the number was a little over 12,000.

Barney Oursler, director of the Mon Valley Unemployed Committee, says he’s “blown away by the number of people desperately trying to get through and apply for unemployment.”

MVUC is a non-profit that aims to help unemployed and dislocated workers gain access to the benefits they need to remake their lives. The organization started in the early 1970s and played a key role defending workers during the steel industry collapse in the 1980s.

 
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Nesby, Other Mayors Seek More Pandemic Help

April 08, 2020 |

By Staff Reports | Posted in: Duquesne News, McKeesport and Region News, Politics & Elections

Duquesne’s Nickole Nesby and Braddock’s Chardae Jones joined more than 30 other mayors of cities and boroughs across Pennsylvania to ask the federal government to increase production of medical supplies and coordinate distribution to communities.

In a letter signed by 113 municipal leaders from across the United States and released Monday, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group called on the federal government to do a better job of coordinating response to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s time for leaders in Washington to have our back,” said John Henry, mayor of West View, north of Pittsburgh. “The federal government must do its job coordinating national disaster response to get us the masks and ventilators we need to save lives. Every minute counts.”

 
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Auberle Focusing on Positives During Pandemic

April 08, 2020 |

By Nick Zurawsky | Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

Last week, Auberle program participants chalked inspirational messages on sidewalks around the McKeesport campus. (Auberle photo via Facebook)


Despite the hardships everyone is experiencing during the coronavirus pandemic, Auberle’s John Lydon says he’s trying to stay focused on the goodwill that people are showing, and the good deeds that have resulted.

“It seems that everything out there is doom and gloom,” says Lydon, chief executive officer of the non-profit organization that provides a variety of social services to families and communities. “We need to know that there are people persevering.”

Some of the gestures are large, he says, but others are more personal, like the dozen hand-sewn washable face masks that were donated to Auberle by Amanda Huff, a local woman who runs a sewing shop.

 
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