A grand exploration…screeches to a halt

North Allegheny and Grandview Elementary planned to team up once again, but plans met with an abrupt ending.


Janellen Lombardi

Grandview and NASH students walk to Pittsburgh’s Mt. Washington overlook during the December 2022 field trip.

Sierra O'Neil, Staff Writer

The days of elementary school field trips, strolling off the bus stress-free, only a brown paper bag lunch in hand, have become distant memories. The build-up was chaotic, as students decided who they wanted to sit with on the ride, and they could feel the anticipation in the air as buses began to populate outside the school. These days were few and far between but were defining parts of the school experience.

But on Monday night, a Remind message was sent out to dozens of NASH students, breaking the news that Wednesday’s trip to Grandview Elementary School in the Pittsburgh Public School District was canceled due to a Covid-19 outbreak. And within moments, dreams were crushed, buses were canceled, and little brown bag lunches were tossed. Earlier that day, Grandview had notified trip facilitator Janellen Lombardi that an outbreak had occurred at their school.  The rare and long-awaited experience for the Grandview kids vanished, yet again showing the effects Covid is having on school systems across the country, especially ones experiencing financial hardships. 

From visiting the zoo to an art museum, field trips not only grant a day out of a confining classroom or a day to explore with friends, but they are also proven to increase grades, graduation rates, and critical thinking skills. With field trips taking a hiatus during Covid and the thrill of having parents sign a permission slip disappearing, North Allegheny students felt the loss, but Grandview students experienced it on a much greater scale, since the Grandview students experience serious financial disparities. 

The events of the pandemic prohibited North Allegheny from interacting hands-on with Grandview students for over two years, but the two group resumed the tradition in December 2022, teaming up to explore Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Science Center. 

Khadijah Bajwa and her Grandview buddy at December’s visit (Janellen Lombardi)

Lombardi, the NASH GOAL teacher who founded the Grandview partnership, was ecstatic for Wednesday’s trip.

“Our objective is to engage the curiosity of the children and have fun,” said Lombardi before getting the news, “The social interactions and friendships are important–as well as a general excitement about learning outside of the classroom.”

The decade-long initiative that screeched to a halt earlier this week has been a life-altering experience for all students involved. From a Mars exhibit and water playground to a planetarium film, visiting the Science Center would have been a first-time experience for some students. 

Not only is the Science Center a favorite of all, but the program’s goals and initiatives are in alignment with that of the Grandview and NASH partnership.

“This year, Grandview won an EQT grant which covers the cost of general admission for all the students to participate in this trip,” said Lombardi.

With the future of this field trip up in the air, NASH students felt disheartened this Wednesday. 

Sophie Kollitz, a senior who went to Grandview in December and whose siblings participated in the program in past years, was eager to reunite with her buddy.

“I was really sad when I found out about the cancellation,” said Kollitz.

Anticipation for the trip had been building for months.

Kollitz added, “The Grandview kids have had a countdown in their room since December waiting for the Science Center.” 

While NASH students were disappointed, they were truly concerned about their Grandview buddies.

“I hope that the kids are not too upset about the cancellation,” said senior Ava Eichelberger. “I know that some of them have never been to the Science Center, so it would have been a fun, new experience for them.”

The cancellation shows that schools still suffer from the effects of Covid. In fact, students in primarily African American schools are six months behind in education, and low-income schools are seven months behind, all due to the pandemic. The disadvantaged system for low-income and minority students has plagued the nation for decades, but the spread of Covid has only worsened the disparity—making the Grandview mentoring program even more vital.

If the past few years have taught us anything, it’s that we always need to be flexible and ready to make a change in an instant,” said Lombardi, after breaking the news. “[The Grandview students] have had their entire education disrupted due to Covid, so this is nothing new for them.”

Rachael Johns and her Grandview buddy building a tiger at December’s visit (Janellen Lombardi).

For newcomers who didn’t attend the December trip, the reactions were universal—downcast. 

I was more upset that Covid still prevents people from their planned activities and events,” said senior Ben Balbach, who was new to the program.

With the opportunity gap and achievement gap widening, programs like Grandview are increasingly essential to educational equity. All Grandview students qualify for the free lunch program, indicating that they likely lack the resources to provide a plentiful amount of after-school activities and field trips, whic are necessary to ensure bright futures for the Grandview students. NASH’s Grandview program helps to bridge the gap between rich and poor, and black and white. 

At the moment Lombardi is hopeful that she can re-schedule the trip in May, providing hope for all students involved.

“I really love hanging out with all of the Grandview students and hope that I will be able to see them one more time,” said Eichelberger.