Greensburg Salem School Board debates return to in-person instruction

Jacob Tierney, Tribune-Review, Greensburg, Pa.
·3 min read

Mar. 4—The Greensburg Salem School Board on Wednesday debated whether to bring kids back to school full time — or close to it — starting next month.

The district has been following a hybrid model in which students split their time between attending school and learning remotely.

Greensburg Salem High School last week gave seniors the option to attend four days a week.

At next week's meeting, the board will vote on whether to extend that option to all students.

The board also will consider returning to a full five-day school week.

Students would be able to choose to learn remotely or continue attending on a hybrid schedule.

Most of the board members who weighed in at Wednesday's discussion meeting were in favor of bringing students back as soon as possible.

"I think we're running out of time here," board member Jeff Metrosky said. "We're in March, we're talking about bringing kids back four or five days a week in April; that's only two months left in the year. ... Having those kids outside of school, it's not working, through no fault of anyone at Greensburg Salem."

Board member Lynna Thomas was the sole dissenting voice. State recommendations say districts should stay on a hybrid learning model when coronavirus infection rates are as high as they are in Westmoreland County, she said.

"We have a lot of people to take care of, and education is our priority, but mental health and safety are as well," she said.

She urged the district to wait until vaccines could be secured for teachers and staff.

Superintendent Gary Peiffer said it's impossible to eliminate risk, but it is possible to minimize it. He said many students are struggling due to the lack of in-person education.

"I feel that we need to increase our face-to-face time," he said.

Board member Lynn Jobe said she understands the importance of having students back in school, but asked whether any measures have been taken to accommodate teachers who were not comfortable returning.

According to Peiffer, some teachers would be remote-only when students return. The district is in the midst of a teacher survey to learn more about how faculty feels about the proposal, Peiffer said.

In addition to Metrosky, board members Brian Conway, Frank Gazze and Robin Savage spoke in favor of restoring in-person learning.

"We have to keep remembering education comes first right now," Savage said. "If they want to come to school, welcome them with open arms to be there. And if parents feel uncomfortable, they have the right to stay home."

The board will vote 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 10. The meeting in the Greensburg Salem Middle School auditorium will be held in person and open to the public, though attendance will be limited due to covid restrictions. The meeting also will be livestreamed at greensburgsalem.org.

Jacob Tierney is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jacob at 724-836-6646, jtierney@triblive.com or via Twitter .