Tube City Community Media Inc. is seeking freelance writers to help cover city council, news and feature stories in McKeesport, Duquesne, White Oak and the neighboring communities. High school and college students seeking work experience are encouraged to apply; we are willing to work with students who need credit toward class assignments. Please send cover letter, resume, two writing samples and the name of a reference (an employer, supervisor, teacher, etc. -- not a relative) to tubecitytiger@gmail.com.

To place your ad, email tubecitytiger@gmail.com.
Ads start at $1 per day, minimum seven days.

McKeesport Schools Plan Combination
of In-Person, Remote Instruction

Parents will be asked to choose their option, stay with it for nine weeks

By Kristen Keleschenyi
The Tube City Almanac
August 06, 2020
Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

McKeesport Area School District plans to offer both in-person and online learning for the start of the 2020-2021 school year.

Superintendent Mark Holtzman has been revealing the proposed plan for the district during a five-part online video series. The fourth video was posted online earlier this week, followed up by a school board agenda meeting on Wednesday.

The district will offer in-person learning five days a week, breaking the students into two groups by alphabet or by family.

“Children will come to school for approximately 3 to 3.5 hours, either in the morning or afternoon, and receive all the instruction necessary for the day,” Holtzman said. “Secondary students will run through their entire schedule, whether it's an eight- or nine-period day for a shortened period of time.”

This plan allows the district to cut down on the number of students in each building by half.

“Those opportunities will allow us to social distance, keep kids safe, get them through security” and to comply with the state’s mandatory mask mandate for adults and children in schools, he said.

The classes will be shorter, 20 to 30 minutes in length, and will focus on core subjects. Electives such as art and physical education “may possibly be done remotely, so those details are being worked through by the building principals to ensure that children are getting the best instruction possible while they are in school face-to-face with their teachers and instructors,” Holtzman said.

A big component of the in-person learning is sanitizing. The district will have two daytime custodians frequently cleaning high touch surfaces, including door handles and water fountains, and also disinfecting rooms between the morning and afternoon sessions.

Holtzman said the district has invested in special battery-operated devices for spraying disinfectant on surfaces and are looking into large machines to help with large-area cleaning in the evenings and on weekends.

Plastic shields will be available for all children and disposable masks will be on hand for kids who forget their shields.

Parents have been encouraged to complete a survey to choose between in-person instruction and online learning for the start of the school year, which has been moved to Aug. 26.

This change will allow more in-service days for teachers to become better prepared for education during a pandemic. Holtzman says all students will be provided with a device — not just one per family — but the devices are currently on back order and hopefully will be available for distribution at the end of August or early September.

Hotspots will be established to help families struggling with Internet service, he said.

Families who choose online learning will utilize Google Classroom and other platforms being explored by the district including Zoom. Lessons online will be posted and recorded by teachers assigned to oversee the virtual instruction option.

Holtzman said the plan as proposed will be assessed after the first three to four weeks of school to see how many families are utilizing the online platforms and to adjust staff accordingly. Families will be able to change from remote to in person learning but are being asked to commit to one option for the entire first nine weeks.

At the school board’s agenda meeting, a handful of speakers expressed concerns. Bus driver Melande Mockabee asked about how the district will ensure that pupils wear masks, and what to do about children who appear sick when they board the bus.

Holtzman said he will meet soon with bus drivers to make sure everyone is following the proper protocols in place to ensure a safe transportation environment.

Founders’ Hall teacher Christopher Kastronis spoke on behalf of teachers and staff to address their concerns, compiled through a recent survey.

“The teachers are anxious to go back and teach their students,” he said. “We want to go back to work. We miss the students. We miss our friends. We miss our colleagues. We miss what we do. We just want to make sure we’re doing it in the safest way possible for everybody involved.”

Their top concerns, Kastronis said, include sanitization, social distancing rules and providing a quality education during the condensed schedule.

Parent Steven Singer asked the board to do what neighboring districts are doing in order to keep everyone as safe as possible in light of a continued spike in Covid-19 cases in Allegheny County.

“The largest district in Allegheny County, Pittsburgh Public Schools has already decided to start all-virtual classes, as have nearby East Allegheny, Woodland Hills and Wilkinsburg districts,” Singer said. “We should do the same. Safety has to be the primary consideration in opening plans during a global pandemic.”

Holtzman said the district is comfortable providing options for parents and said each household will have to make a decision “that’s in the best interest of your family.”

Anyone with questions should call the school at (412) 664-3689 or email communications@mckasd.net. The school board is expected to vote on the district's reopening plan during its regular meeting at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 12.

Kristen Keleschenyi is a freelance writer in North Versailles Twp. and one of the hosts of the Kristen & Amber Show on WMCK Internet Radio at 5 p.m. Saturdays, 9 p.m. Mondays and 4 p.m. Thursdays. She may be reached at kbishop25@hotmail.com.

Originally published August 06, 2020.

In other news:
"MAHS Tiger Band Wraps…" || "HUD Official Encourag…"