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Oliver Citywide Academy will not reopen after student killed oustide | #schoolsaftey


Oliver Citywide Academy will not reopen this year, but beyond that, it isn’t clear what the future holds for a school that has been the site of two tragic deaths and an assault on a teacher.

District officials say plans for the building and its students will become clearer during the board’s education committee meeting on Tuesday. In the meantime, Oliver students will learn remotely through June 14, the last day of the school year for Pittsburgh Public Schools, as they mourn the death of 15-year-old Derrick Harris. Harris was shot outside of the school last month, allegedly by another student.

But there have been complaints over what some critics call a lack of communication from the district. Board member Kevin Carter represents the district that includes Oliver, and says he does not have faith in “the district’s ability to keep our staff and students safe.”

Harris was the second student to die outside of the school in broad daylight in the past year and a half. Marquis Campbell was also 15 when he was shot and killed outside of the school in January 2022. And a teacher was also sexually assaulted in the school, allegedly by a student.

Carter said administrators have not told the board what support and security measures were added after those incidents.

“You don’t all of a sudden out of the blue bring a gun to school and shoot your classmate had there not been scenarios that had occurred prior to this build up to a loss of life,” Carter said. “What warning signs did they have that they did not intervene or act upon that allowed this to become a scenario? I think that’s the same thing with the sexual assault: Why would a teacher and a student be left alone in the classroom?

“Based on this being the third major violent incident that has happened, ” Carter added, “it seems that they’ve not done very much of anything.”

Multiple district administrators did not respond to WESA queries about the future of the school and Carter’s claims. The lone exception was Patti Camper, who oversees the special education plan as the district’s assistant superintendent for the program for students with exceptionalities.

Camper said in an email that a three-year Special Education Plan, which spells out approaches for special-education students districtwide, will be presented Tuesday.

“There are changes to [Oliver] in the three-year plan that were planned prior to [the shooting],” she said. She added that the proposed plan “will not be all-inclusive of future changes.”

Those changes could include moving students in some grades to other schools, and may ultimately include outright closure of Oliver.

During a press conference on the day Harris was killed, Superintendent Wayne Walters said the school’s future was uncertain.

“It is our expectation that our students’ safety to, from and inside our school buildings is paramount. Today this student’s safety was breached. This is unacceptable,” Walters said during the press conference.

Board member Gene Walker says he was satisfied with the communication he has received from administrators about measures put in place after Campbell was killed.

“It’s really hard to put measures in place to prevent something from happening outside of the school, because our focus is rightly ensuring that nothing like this happens inside of one of our buildings,” he said.

Board member Pam Harbin said she is heartbroken that “our students, staff and families continue to live in fear of gun violence.”

“Emotional and physical safety is a prerequisite for learning. Without gun safety legislation, we must come together to find other solutions to make school safety a reality,” she said in an email.

The six other board members either did not respond to or declined requests for comment.

Tuesday’s education committee meeting starts at 5:30 p.m. and can be streamed at pghschools.org.





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