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

April 29, 2020 |

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

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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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Driver Questioned Following East End Accident

April 28, 2020 |

By Staff Reports | Posted in: Crime and Police News

An Elizabeth Twp. man was held overnight following a crash on Fifth Avenue in the city’s East End.

McKeesport police said charges are pending completion of their investigation.

Police said a gray Ford Fusion left the road in the 1700 block of East Fifth Avenue just after 8 p.m. April 20, narrowly missing a car in the oncoming lane, and crashed into the side of the AI Solutions building.

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Two Teens Charged in Grandview Arsons

April 28, 2020 |

By Staff Reports | Posted in: Crime and Police News

Two teen-aged girls have been charged with arson in connection with several fires in the Grandview area of the city that investigators believe were deliberately set.

The girls, both 14, from McKeesport and White Oak, were arrested following a fire at an abandoned house on Easler Street on April 16, and police believe the youths are also responsible for fires at three other vacant houses in the neighborhood.

The teens are charged with five counts each of arson and causing or risking a catastrophe. Both were arrested April 17 and taken to Shuman Juvenile Detention Center for processing, police said.

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Heritage Center Plans Fireside Chats

April 22, 2020 |

By Staff Reports | Posted in: Announcements

Although in-person activities are on hold for the forseeable future, the McKeesport Regional History & Heritage Center is scheduling a series of “Fireside Chats” about Western Pennsylvania’s past.

Museum manager Dave Moore (above) will host the chat series on Facebook beginning at 7 p.m. today (April 22) with a talk about the arrival of golf in Western Pennsylvania.

Teresa Trich, community outreach director, said the center is still monitoring the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic and will follow the advice of Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf. The center is tentatively hoping to re-open May 12, she said, but “the safety of our staff and patrons comes first and we will only re-open when it is safe to do so.”

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Activities On Hold, W.O. Will Consider Future Plans

April 22, 2020 |

By Richard Finch Jr. | Posted in: White Oak News

All White Oak recreational activities have been suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Councilwoman Julie Opferman, speaking on behalf of the parks and recreation department, said at Monday night’s meeting that the borough will be monitoring the situation to consider when events can possibly be re-scheduled and resumed.

In other business:

Council approved a motion to exercise the first option year with Cargill, Inc., for the purchase of rock salt for the July 2020 to June 2021 contract year.

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W.O. Council Rehires Fired Police Officer

April 22, 2020 |

By Richard Finch Jr. | Posted in: White Oak News

White Oak Council voted 4-3 to rehire a former police officer who was terminated over allegations that he assaulted his wife in September 2018.

The motion was introduced at Monday’s meeting by Councilman Lou Bender, chair of the public safety committee. The officer, Timothy Estep, was hired by the borough in 1995 and terminated in December 2018.

Bender and council members Julie Opferman, Ed Babyak and Chuck Davis voted in favor of rehiring Estep. George Dillinger, Ken Robb and George Pambacas voted against.

In a contentious discussion at Monday’s meeting, livestreamed on Facebook and Zoom, veteran Councilman Kenneth Robb warned fellow officials, “If anything happens as a result of the vote to bring him back, and we get sued, I’m going to offer as additional defendants the people who voted to bring him back.”

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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

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All Allegheny Voters May Cast Ballots By Mail

April 18, 2020 |

By Jason Togyer | Posted in: Politics & Elections

(Allegheny County illustration)

All Allegheny County voters will have the option of casting a ballot by mail in the June 2 primary election.

County officials on Friday announced that all registered voters will receive an application for a mail-in ballot, as well as a postage-paid envelope. Registered voters also may apply for a mail-in ballot online at, if they have not already requested an absentee ballot.

A spokeswoman said the county is having difficulty finding enough workers to staff polling stations because of the coronavirus pandemic.

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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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