By Chanel Hill
PHILADELPHIA — The chief of schools for the School District of Philadelphia on Thursday outlined some of administrators’ plans for how schools will operate when they reopen in the fall.
District administrators are still planning for three scenarios, including in-person learning, digital learning and a hybrid model (with some in-person classes and some remote classes) for the 2020-21 academic school year.
“The hybrid model will give students an opportunity to have English language arts, math, science, art, music, and physical education in an in-school setting,” District Chief of Schools Evelyn Nuñez said during a virtual town hall on Thursday.
“The application of the learned information and other content areas will be learning in the virtual setting.”
District administrators also are working on plans for school dismissal, athletic programs and extracurricular activities.
“We’re working on staggered dismissal protocols, exit pathways and where students will enter the buses,” Nuñez said.
School buildings have been closed since March 13, when Gov. Tom Wolf ordered all schools to close to in an attempt to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Administrators are working on a plan to “help students and teachers with the learning gap,” Nuñez said.
Administrators are thinking about testing students when they return to school to see what they’ve absorbed, and then using that testing data to make changes to instructional practices, Nuñez said.
The district will also train staff to be prepared to provide social and emotional support to students when school resumes, Nuñez said.
Following Nuñez’s presentation, teachers and parents voiced their concerns about students returning to school buildings, the number of students who will be in each classroom, social distancing and students with compromised immune systems.
“I teach a large group of students everyday and my concern is how will I be able to social distance my students 6 feet a part in a 600-square-foot classroom,” one district teacher said. “As a parent, I’m concerned about my children in elementary school and them being in the classroom right now with their compromised immune system.”
Another district teacher wondered why the remote learning model was not getting heavy consideration considering the new spike in coronavirus cases across the state.
“Yes, we may have had problems with remote learning, but I still think it’s the safest option especially since so little has changed in our situation since March,” he said. “We have rising cases and death numbers, no vaccine or cure, and still concerns of large group gatherings. We really need to think about all scenarios before making a final decision.”
The academic year for the School District of Philadelphia currently is scheduled to start on Aug. 31, though Superintendent William Hite recently said administrators are considering changing that date.
Hite has said administrators will take the feedback from surveys and virtual town hall meetings, and health guidelines from local, state and federal officials into consideration as they decide when and how to start the new school year. Administrators plan to announce their decision in the next few weeks.
Chanel Hill is a reporter for the Philadelphia Tribune, where this story first appeared.