Philadelphia public schools to close for 2 weeks due to lack of staff amid coronavirus closures

UPDATED: 5:11 p.m.

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Superintendent William Hite said due to a lack of staff, all schools within the School District of Philadelphia will be closed for two weeks amid ongoing concerns over coronavirus.

Late Thursday — after Gov. Tom Wolf closed schools and other venues in Montgomery County — the district decided to close all of its 63 schools just for one day. Then, the district said it will be closed for two weeks, as many faculty members are now unable to come to work.

Shortly thereafter, Wolf ordered all schools in the state to close for two weeks.

The district said 15% of district staff live in Montgomery County. As a result, the district said it is closing due to a lack of staff, not directly due to coronavirus in Philadelphia.

“This closure is now necessary as the neighboring counties, where many of our district employees reside, are asked to self-quarantine and cannot adequately staff schools,” Hite said.

All schools within the School District of Philadelphia will be closed beginning Monday, March 16, 2020, through Friday, March 27, 2020.

— Philadelphia Schools (@PHLschools) March 13, 2020

As of Friday, there are now three presumptive positive coronavirus cases in Philadelphia.

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia announced its schools will be closed through March 27 as well.

Every Philly school building will be deep cleaned during this time, and no students or staff will return until the cleanings are complete.

Philadelphia officials are not happy about schools closing — or about the cascading effects it will have.

Managing Director Brian Abernathy passionately defended keeping schools open.

“The schools are really the lifeblood of our communities. They are a primary source of breakfast and lunch. They provide an opportunity for parents to go to work,” he said. “It was the governor and Montgomery County and Delaware County that put us in this position, and I'll be damned, we're going to do everything we can for our community and our neighbors, and we're going to rise above it.”

Abernathy said task forces are working to make sure meals are still available for students who rely on them. Other groups are working on activities at rec centers and other facilities, and figuring out how to keep city services going if employees have to stay home with their children.

He says private businesses will face the same issue and the city may have to provide support for the overall economy.

“We are working through what they might look like and since the governor has put us in this position, I hope the governor will get us out.”

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KYW Newsradio’s Pat Loeb and Rachel Kurland contributed to this report.