PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The Philadelphia School District has outlined its plans to return students to classrooms for the first time since the pandemic closed buildings in March. But there’s no return date for the majority of students, and Superintendent William Hite said many may not go back to buildings at all this year.
Under Hite’s plan, pre-K through second graders would return to Philadelphia schools starting Nov. 30 on a hybrid schedule. Those 32,000 students would be in buildings two days a week, with everyone home for virtual classes on Wednesdays.
Special needs students in grades 3 through 12 would return next in January if conditions permit.
Ninth graders and Career and Technical Education students would return next in late January or early February.
No date is set for the remainder of the district’s 125,000 students, and Hite told reporters there are no guarantees that all students would be back in buildings during this school year.
“It could be feasible that we will be able to return everyone in to some form of in-person learning,” Hite said. “But it’s also equally feasible that we may not.”
Parents will have the option to choose whether their children return to school buildings or remain online.
Philadelphia Federation of Teachers President Jerry Jordan in a statement acknowledged that virtual learning was far from ideal but said, "We have yet to see any evidence that schools will be ready to open in any capacity on the proposed dates.”
Hite told reporters he would provide more information on building ventilation, including how many people can safely occupy classrooms, when he presents his plan to the school board for approval next week.
Three hundred of the district’s 9,000 teachers have requested to work remotely for medical reasons.
The district is bringing on additional staff to cover those classes in person where necessary. The district spent $6 million to put webcams in classrooms so that students at home could stay with their regular teachers.
Starting Oct. 26, parents of pre-K through second grade students may choose whether they want their children to physically return to schools or to keep learning virtually.
Hite said the plan can change, based on recommendations from the Philadelphia Department of Public Health.
“We will not return them if in fact it’s not safe for students and staff. Even after we return, we will not remain in schools if it’s not safe for students and staff,” he said.