Happy Chinese New Year!
Jan. 25 marks the start of the Year of the Rat, or more specifically, Metal Rat. According to Chinese astrology, that means a year of prosperity.
That’s good news, as is what two regional organizations are planning to ring in the next 12 months.
Upper St. Clair resident Susan Chang is president of the Chinese Association for Science and Technology – Pittsburgh Chapter, which is joining with the Pittsburgh Chinese Cultural Center to present an entertainment-filled event starting at 6 p.m. Jan. 18 at North Allegheny High School in McCandless.
The groups’ annual Spring Festival features some high-profile visitors from China along with Pittsburgh-area performers.
“We are drawing more and more people to the event,” Chang said, noting that about 1,000 people attended last year at North Allegheny’s Marshall Middle School.
Part of her organization’s goal is promoting cultural diversity, and those who attend this year’s festival will have the opportunity to see some of China’s art forms that date back centuries.
An example is Bian Lian, in which performers wear vividly colored masks that they can change almost instantaneously – audience members may consider it magically – with the swipe of a fan, movement of the head or wave of the hand. Xue Li will demonstrate at the Spring Festival, and she is especially noteworthy:
“Normally, this was done by male actors, and she was the first female face-changer in China.”
Also traveling from Chang’s native country to perform are Chagmin Xie, an award-winning Sichuan opera dancer; Xiaoling Tonk, the latest in a family line of Peking opera masters; and Ling Yang, a Kun opera artist.
For edification, several operatic forms have developed in China, with Kun or Kunqu originating some 600 years ago as the acknowledged “ancestor of Chinese dramas.” Peking opera, the nation’s quintessential form, combines music, mime, dance and acrobatics, while Sichuan or Chuan opera, of which Bian Lian is a highlight, arose from folk traditions.
Playing the pipa, a four-stringed instrument, sometimes called the Chinese lute, will be Pittsburgh-area resident Jin Yang. Also hailing from the region, dancer Yanlai Wu is performing.
“When she was in China, she was an award-winning dancer, and then she came to Pittsburgh and opened a school,” Chang said about her academy in Ross Township. “She does wonderful choreography.”
Along with sharing cultural elements, the Chinese Association for Science and Technology – Pittsburgh Chapter, formed in 1994, also promotes economic development through the disciplines noted in its title.
In October, for instance, CAST-P hosted a Global Innovation Summit that brought world-class speakers – among them Craig Mello, Nobel Prize of Physiology winner in 2006 – and experts to conduct forums.
“We wanted to contribute something to Pittsburgh, especially at, we believe, a turning point that Pittsburgh has the hope to become a technology center,” Chang said.
An engineering consultant and technology developer for a variety of industries, she earned her doctorate from the University of Pittsburgh.
“That was the turning point,” she said. “I was basically trained in one area, but after I came to the United States to study for my Ph.D., the system requires you to diversify. You have to simultaneously learn several fields in order to get your degree.”
Regarding CAST-P’s partner organization for the Spring Festival, the Pittsburgh Chinese Cultural Center facilitates assimilation of Chinese immigrants into the Pittsburgh community and supports relations between Pittsburgh businesses and China, along with promoting Chinese culture.
Tickets to the Spring Festival are $10 and can be purchased at castp-events.yapsody.com.
Changes could be coming to the street that serves the Mt. Lebanon Recreation Center.
Morgan Drive has two outbound lanes, with one only for right turns onto Cedar Boulevard. The other serves both left-turning vehicles and those proceeding straight onto Greenhurst Drive.
The Mt. Lebanon Traffic Board has recommended a plan to reverse the lanes’ flow designations, providing for a left-turn-only lane, and to make other improvements to help improve traffic flow, especially during times of heavier pedestrian and vehicular use in conjunction with nearby Mt. Lebanon High School.
Final approval of the plan is subject to a vote by the municipal commission because its implementation involves a capital expense, according to Mike Haberman, traffic engineer with Gateway Engineers.
At the traffic board’s Jan. 8 meeting, he explained a problem that tends to occur for Greenhurst-bound motorists.
“They’re now getting stuck behind somebody turning left, and the phenomenon that’s happening is that they’re going over to that right lane and trying to speed through,” he said.
Along with designating the left lane solely for making left turns, the recommendation also is to provide an advanced left-turn arrow within the traffic signal.
“During that phase, the pedestrian walk signal will be ‘don’t walk,’” Haberman explained. “That will allow us to relieve some of the traffic on Morgan.”
He estimated the cost of the project, which will involve new markings and signs, at about $1,000 if municipal employees handle changing the signal.
In other traffic board business:
Recommended improvements include replacing the current parallel-line crosswalks with a “piano key” design, the appearance of which, indeed, resembles a piano’s white and black keys.
“It’s helpful for maintenance. It’s helpful for visibility,” Haberman said. “They’re a little bit easier to see for a driver, and then from a maintenance standpoint, the way they’re installed, you don’t have markings where the tires actually go, so they don’t wear like parallel lines do.”
Also, new fluorescent green-yellow pedestrian crossing signs will replace the ones now standing.
The objective is to gather data from intersections serving Arden, Beverly and Cochran roads, along with Parker Drive and other streets in that area, to help determine whether traffic calming is warranted.
Haberman said that Tri-State Traffic Data, based in Chester County, has submitted a proposal to complement Gateway’s work on the study, and the total cost would be about $13,000.
Peters Township School District’s 2020-21 calendar looks to be somewhat different than academic year schedules of the past.
“This is not a normal year,” school board member Jamison Hardy said. “Let’s be honest. This is a very abnormal thing and once-in-a-lifetime for most of us.”
The board plans to vote on the calendar at its Jan. 21 regular meeting, and the topic came up for discussion at the board’s Jan. 6 buildings and grounds committee meeting because of considerations regarding the move to the new Peters Township High School beginning in December.
According to information distributed at the committee meeting, the coming school year would be scheduled to start for students on Aug. 20, and to wrap up June 9, 2021, with faculty members finishing two days later.
Some tweaking may occur prior to its adoption, but the calendar also calls for a winter break from Dec. 17 through Jan. 5, the time period when the move from the current high school to the new building is to take place. Students’ spring break would be April 1-6, 2021.
Superintendent Jeannine French said that the district leadership came up with five scenarios for potential calendars, attempting to remain somewhat consistent with schedules of the past while taking into the consideration the grading periods at various schools along with the high school move.
The scenario presented at the start of the building and grounds committee meeting indicated a shorter winter break and a longer one in April, but board members agreed that more time off in late December and early January could turn out to be optimal.
“I think you can’t be too conservative in the number of days that you have,” board member Daniel Taylor said.
Hardy suggested making Dec. 17 and 18 optional as far as off days.
“We’re going to have the whole of November and the beginning part of December to begin a process,” he said, as the new high school project’s completion is scheduled for late October.
“And so as we’re getting closer to the Christmas break, we can evaluate whether we need the back side, after January, or even the front side,” Hardy continued. “But I think having them in there, giving the administration the option to evaluate it, will also give us the option to say whether we have to hire somebody.”
Regarding the possibility of paying for professional movers, he said:
“I’m the one guy you always hear talking about good stewardship, but this is an area where I’m going to say we need to be concerned with the time rather than the money on this one.”
Even after a calendar is adopted, solicitor Jocelyn Kramer gave the opinion that the board has the option of revising it later.
“Certainly it can be adjusted, and we would hope that we would know prior to the school term whether or not you need to make that adjustment,” she said. “Practically speaking, families start to make plans. They start booking vacations and things like that, and you can really cause a lot of distress if you make the changes too late.
She suggested noting on the calendar for distribution the reason for the longer winter break.
“At least put people on notice that there may be some fluctuation in the calendar, and you’re doing the best you can to predict the completion and the move-in date,” Kramer said.
Administrators already are looking ahead to the following year’s schedule.
“In March, we’re going to be bringing you the calendar for ’21-22, and in that we have to look for a little bit of a later start,” she told the board, as plans call for relocating Peters Township Middle School to the current high school building during the summer of 2021.