School District administrators concerned students may fall further behind with all-virtual education

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Philadelphia school administrators are concerned that students who had months of remote instruction in the spring may fall even further behind, with an all-virtual start to the new school year.

​Superintendent William Hite said students will be assessed early in the new year to measure any learning loss caused when the coronavirus shutdown kept them out of their classrooms for the final three months of the last school year. Hite expressed concern that a new school year starting without in-person instruction will only exacerbate the academic cost.

"We know children fell behind," Hite said. "And we know that without them having a routine and having the structures in place and having the adult with them that is helping them to navigate their learning that they may fall further behind."

Hite also told reporters he's worried about the social growth of students isolated at home.

"High school students who are sending me emails saying, 'Please tell me my senior year is not going to all be virtual. I haven’t been able to see my classmates or my friends,'" he said.

The superintendent said he's concerned about students being away from friends and teachers. "Our young adults aren't equipped to remain isolated," Hite said. "And I think keeping them in isolation is ultimately problematic. And I worry about the trauma associated with the isolation that many of them are experiencing."

Hite said the district has launched an initiative called "Healing Together" designed to address the mental health of students and staff.  Under the program, teachers will hold a daily morning meeting with students, and mental health providers will be onsite at each school.