Brookline Elementary School - September 3, 1980
The first day under the city school board's desegregation plan bore little resemblance to the twelve years of rancor and controversy that led up to it.
More than 80 percent of the students scheduled for classes yesterday attended, an even better showing than administrators expected.
The biggest difficulty was transportation, a perrenial problem that usually takes a few school days to resolve, according to Carmine Sebastian, head of transportation for the school district.
Once the children did arrive, though, yesterday looked pretty much like any other first day of school.
But one final hitch was thrown at the board's plan yesterday. Lawyers for the National Association for Neighborhood Schools asked the U.S. District Court here to order the city school board to cease its desegregation program that went into effect yesterday.
The desegregation plan, which Commonwealth Court and the state Supreme Court said could be implemented, will be the subject of a hearing before Judge Louis Rosenbert at 10a.m. Friday.
NANS lawyer David M. Baer, who contends the plan is unconstitutional, is seeking a premiminary and permanent injuction against the board's action in busing students to achieve racial balance.
He said he didn't file the suit before schools opened because "before then, we couldn't claim the plan in injurious to students."
Frederick Boehm, the school board's lawyer, said he will use the same arguments he used this summer to successfully fight attempts by the state Human Relations Commission and citizens groups to stop the plan from going into effect.
"For the first day of school, the children are going where they're supposed to be going," said Louise Brennan, assistant superintendent in charge of elementary schools. "They're not all in school yet, but they never are on the first day of the year."
In a few cases, the schools even saw some students who weren't scheduled to show up until today.
At Gladstone Middle School, in Hazelwood, for example, about ten seventh and eighth graders came in on buses, only to be sent back home on another bus by Principal Theodore Vasser.
Vasser said some parents apparently didn't see notices that only sixth graders were to report yesterday. High Schools also opened on staggered schedules, with only part of the students expected yesterday and the rest due to report today.
"It's been a great day for Pittsburgh schools," Superintendent Richard C. Wallace said yesterday after his first full day on the job here."
"The general feeling of the administrative staff was that this was a much smoother opening than one would have expected even a year ago. Given that schools were being desegregated for the first time, it was even better."
No demonstrations or boycotts marred the opening and complaints from parents and students were almost exclusively related to buses that were late or did not show up.
Six bus drivers for Brashear High School did not report and students had to find their own way to classes. Two other buses did not make their scheduled rounds for Prospect Middle School pupils.
"Things were a little hectic this morning, but I don't think it was any different than a normal first day, especially when we have a number of new routes," Sebastian said.
He said most of the problems already have been resolved but added, "it usually takes two or three days to get everybody down to where they belong."
Some parents were upset because their children had to walk to school even though their assignments were changed under the desegregation plan.
Enrollment was lower than expected at three Hill District schools - Madison, Vann and Weil - where children from Frick Elementary were reassigned because that building was converted to a middle school.
At Madison, 74 of the 287 pupils were absent, 161 were missing from Vann and 93 were absent from Weil.
Wallace said parents were upset because they thought their children should have been bused rather than having to walk to school. He said the transportation routes will be reviewed on Friday.
About fifty parents and children recently reassigned to Grandview Elementary School in Mount Washington stood in the rain for a half hour yesterday morning waiting in vain for a bus that was not scheduled.
Under the desegregation plan, some white students from Grandview were assigned to predominantly black Beltzhoover Elementary and Beltzhoover pupils were assigned to Grandview.
The Beltzhoover parents said they thought their children would be bused, even though they live less than the required 1.5 miles from Grandview because of the extremely steep terrain around the school.
Grandview Principal Daniel Spillane said no bus had been scheduled, but he said the board's transportation department will review the route and decide if it is hazardous enough to warrant a bus.
Linda Cain, whose first-grade daughter Terrai was assigned to Grandview, said she felt the 16-block walk was too long and is worried about Terrae crossing the street at the corner of Warrington and Beltzhoover Avenues.
* Articles from the Pittsburgh Press - September 3, 1980 *
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