COVID-19 in Philly: Philly’s public school students to start remote learning Monday

    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

    PHILADELPHIA —  The School District of Philadelphia is one step closer to beginning remote learning.

    “We will start our formal digital learning plan on Monday where we will do a review on previously covered material and its enrichment using the digital platform,” School District of Philadelphia Superintendent William Hite said on Thursday. “It will be led by teachers to reinforce the learning from earlier in the year.”

    Then, on Monday, May 4, teachers will lead new lessons and introduce new material.

    “Students will be graded, but grades will likely be based on participation rather than actual content,” Hite said. Students will have to log in to be counted present and participate.

    “We do have some students that will need to turn in some work in order to get to graduation and in order to recover credit that they may need in order to be promoted,” Hite said. “We will have those opportunities for students to engage in those processes as well.”

    School buildings have been closed since March 13, when Gov. Tom Wolf ordered all schools to close to try to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus. All schools will be closed for the remainder of the school year.

    COVID-19 in Philly: With school out for the year, Philly schools come up with distance learning plan

    For the last four weeks, students have been working on learning guides; their work has not been graded because many students did not have access to a computer or the internet to be able to do the work.

    The school district has been distributing Chromebooks to students who need them. Hite said distribution will end this week.

    Approximately 7,000 teachers have been trained on digital platforms including Google Classrooms, Hite said.

    “We’re excited about the 7,000 teachers completing training on the digital platforms, especially since the training was on a volunteer basis,” Hite said. “We’re very interested in getting young people ready to begin using the devices that we’ve provided.

    “It’s really important for students to get that device from their school,” he added. “That is the way we’re going to deliver content. Moving forward, we will have some printed materials available, but the vast majority of our content will be online.”

    ‘When can we open up?’: At town hall, Pa.’s Casey finds constituents weary of lockdown life

    District officials have no plans to amend the academic calendar and the school year will still end instruction for all schools on June 12. Traditional graduations and proms will be canceled.

    “Despite instruction ending on June 12, there will be expanded opportunities for credit recovery, special education and programs to support students,” Hite said. “Counselors will also remain available to assist high school students to help them prepare for college and/or career and for students who need working papers. They will also be assisting students who need social and emotional support.”

    Even though there will be no traditional proms or graduation ceremonies, Hite said, “We’re committed to celebrating our seniors and if possible we want to create that virtual graduation experience. We’re also exploring a celebratory atmosphere that they would have experienced during the prom.”

    Hite said administrators want to return the dues students have paid to participate in prom and graduation, but schools have contracted with venues and suppliers and need to get their deposits back before they can refund students.

    “We’re just asking for people to be patient around that,” he said.

    “All graduating seniors will receive diplomas. Some schools may even plan graduations later. Possibly, in the summer when we can get back to having larger crowds, next fall or even later in the year.”

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