School District of Philadelphia to release fall pandemic plan this week

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Philadelphia parents, students and teachers should find out soon what going back to school in a pandemic will look like. The School District of Philadelphia is expected to release its back-to-school plan this week. 

A hybrid of online and in-person learning is likely. Superintendent William Hite has said everyone returning to school buildings will wear masks. To establish social distancing in normally overcrowded classrooms, Hite told reporters last week that not all students will be allowed in at once.

He specified only well-ventilated classrooms will be used. "If the window doesn't open or there are no windows in that classroom and no air that's circulating, then that's not a room that we're going to be able to use," he said.

The district has pledged to sanitize high-touch surfaces like sinks and doorknobs every four hours.  

Hite has said training on coronavirus protocols could delay the first day of school, currently scheduled for August 31.

The release of the back-to-school plan comes after a series of surveys and online town halls. Parents in the town hall meetings questioned whether the district would have the staff and materials to adequately disinfect schools.

Hite said the plan will aim to return children and teachers to schools while limiting their exposure to COVID-19.

"Am I confident that no children will contract the virus? No. I'm not confident of that," he admitted. "But that should not be an expectation."

Hite was quick to point out that the plan he issues this week will not be final. He maintained because of uncertainty over the virus, everything is subject to change.