Philly public schools will start school year remotely; hybrid learning could follow

By: - July 28, 2020 5:18 pm

By The Philadelphia Tribune

PHILADELPHIA — School District of Philadelphia administrators now want to start the school year with all students learning remotely.

Students would transition to a hybrid instructional model — a mix of in-person learning and remote learning — after the first marking period, which ends on Nov. 17, as long as local, state and federal health officials say it is safe.

Administrators originally planned to start the school year with the hybrid model.

“These changes were not made lightly. All of the decisions we are making due to the COVID-19 pandemic are difficult ones with no obvious answers for how to account for the many, and often competing, needs of our students, staff and families,” Superintendent William Hite said in a news release.

“As I’ve stated many times before, this school year will be a challenge for us all, as we learn how to cope with this ‘new normal.’ And being flexible will be essential for us all.”

Administrators plan to propose this change at the Board of Education meeting on Thursday.

At the meeting, the board also is expected to vote on a proposed new calendar for the 2020-21 school year, which would set the first day for Sept. 2.

“We realize there are a lot of questions around how our students and staff will return to school,” said Board of Education President Joyce Wilkerson. “Given the unpredictable nature of COVID-19 and how it has and will continue to impact our lives, the one thing we know for certain is that we’ll have to be patient and willing to work together to ensure that the health and well-being of everyone remains our top priority.”

The administrators’ announcement came as city health officials reported that the number of positive coronavirus cases in the city has been rising in recent days, and the Kenney administration announced that it was once again delaying the resumption of indoor dining in the city’s approximately 4,200 restaurants.

The number of positive coronavirus cases has been rising elsewhere in the state and across the U.S.

Philadelphia public schools closed in mid-March, when Gov. Tom Wolf ordered all schools in the state to close in an effort to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Two weeks ago, School District of Philadelphia administrators proposed the hybrid instructional model for reopening schools. The plan was to have students in the classroom for two days per week, with one group of students taking in-person classes on Mondays and Wednesdays, another group taking in-person classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and all students learning remotely on Fridays.

“I’ve actively listened to all of the feedback we have received, and believe we must take the time needed to gain the trust and support of our school community as we pursue a plan that will help our children learn in an environment none of us has ever experienced before,” Hite said in the news release.

The district will have Chromebooks for any students who might need them, and it is continuing to work with legislators and business leaders to provide reliable internet access for the school year.

The district also will continue to provide meals as it has since the coronavirus outbreak began in the city.

While students are learning remotely, district administrators plan to work to continue to address ventilation problems in school buildings and other health issues to make sure schools are prepared for occupancy, the news release said.

This story first appeared in the Philadelphia Tribune, a publishing partner of the Pennsylvania Capital-Star. 

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