Philly schools start offering courses for parents and mental health services

School District of Philadelphia Superintendent William Hite speaks during a news conference Wednesday, March 18, 2020, at City Hall (Photo via The Philadelphia Tribune)

By Chanel Hill

PHILADELPHIA — The School District of Philadelphia is expanding its course offerings and services beyond its curriculum to include courses for parents and mental health services.

The district is launching a mental health hotline — Philly Hopeline — in partnership with Uplift Center for Grieving Children, and offering special online courses through Virtual Family Academy.

“We recognize the mental and emotional toll this pandemic and the subsequent closing of schools may be having on our students, families, and caregivers,” district Superintendent William Hite said Thursday during his weekly conference call with the news media.

Philly Hopeline will allow students and their families to speak with clinicians by video, text and/or phone. If students and families call outside the window of operation, they will have the option of leaving a message and will be given a crisis phone number in case of emergency. All messages will be returned the next day.

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The Virtual Family Academy courses are part of the district’s “Learn Where You Live” initiative, which the district began in 2017 to offer support to families.

“The program has been reformatted to offer virtual webinars as a way for the District to stay engaged with families and to continue to offer support while schools are closed,” Hite said.

The courses will be available on Zoom and can be accessed from a computer, tablet or smartphone.

Upcoming Virtual Family Academy sessions include: “Google Classroom Fundamentals for Families” (May 8), “Managing Stress for a Healthy Family During COVID-19” (May 13), and “Social and Emotional Learning: Connections Between School and Home” (May 14). Registration is not required.

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Graded instruction started this week

The school district started grading students for their online work this week.

Teachers will assign projects that align with grade-level standards, Hite said. The grades on those projects will be combined with the grades from work done Jan. 30 through March 13 to determine students’ third marking period grades. Final grades will be the average of the three marking periods.

“The grades can be anything from participation and turning things in, to [students] texting a teacher, sending a picture of them working on the assignment or logging in,” Hite said.

Chanel Hill is a reporter for the Philadelphia Tribune, where this story first appeared.