Philly teachers at odds on how to reopen schools

The Philadelphia Federation of Teachers President Jerry Jordan says a recent survey reveals members’ concerns with reopening schools (Philadelphia Tribune photo).

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PHILADELPHIA — Philadelphia teachers can’t seem to agree on the best way to reopen Philadelphia Public schools.

A recent survey by the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers (PFT) shows that very few of the 5,914 teachers who responded think schools should reopen without modifications such as physical distancing, the use of personal protective equipment or modified schedules, but PFT President Jerry Jordan says there is no overall agreement on what those modifications should be.

“The members are concerned. Most believe that the ideal way of teaching children is to be in a classroom face to face and having personal interaction with them. The members are also very concerned about their safety and rightfully so,” Jordan said. “I think we all have to be concerned, that’s why we’re all wearing masks and gloves because that’s what the scientists are telling us that we need to do.”

Even though members weren’t extremely committed to one way of reopening over another, one option did get more votes than the rest — the hybrid model, which is a mix of in-school learning as well as online learning. Approximately 56% of survey respondents said they supported some type of hybrid model.

The survey revealed that classroom structure isn’t the only pressing issue on the minds of Philadelphia teachers.

“There are other issues that were raised by members, mainly about cleaning protocols. They’re very concerned about their health and safety, as they should be, as I am concerned about that as well,” Jordan said.

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Jordan said he looks to health care professionals for guidance when it comes to safety measures.

“The CDC and other experts have made recommendations and have been very clear about having hand-washing stations, having rooms sanitized and it has to be done on a daily basis, not when you get around to doing it,” he said.

Jordan said he hopes to share the PFT’s findings with the school district soon. He said he expects the discussion to include the cleanliness of buildings, how buildings will be sanitized and other issues.

School District of Philadelphia administrators still are working on a plan for reopening — and reconsidering the reopening date.

District spokeswoman Monica Lewis said administrators are listening to experts, public health officials, teachers and parents, and taking all of their feedback into consideration as they develop their plans, which they expect to unveil in the middle of July.

“We are definitely open to any and all possibilities to ensure that our students and staff have a safe learning and instruction environment,” Lewis said. “You also just have to keep in mind that whatever decision might be made could absolutely change within a matter of days depending on how the virus is spreading in terms of how the numbers look. This is a very fluid process.”

Jamyra Perry is a reporter for the Philadelphia Tribune, where this story first appeared