Philadelphia officials plan to have all students back in the classroom this fall

Thursday, May 20, 2021
Philly students to return to in-person learning this fall
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Philadelphia officials plan to have all students back in the classroom full time come the fall.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Philadelphia officials plan to have all students back in the classroom full time come the fall, Superintendent Dr. William Hite said during a news conference on Wednesday.

"Our goal for the upcoming 2021-2022 school year is to safely welcome all of our students back to school for in-person learning five days a week beginning on Tuesday, August 31, 2021, which is the first day of school," Hite said.

Ahead of the restart, district families are invited to take a survey to share what excites and concerns them about the return to in-person learning. The survey closes at 5 p.m. on Friday, May 28.

"We're committed to a plan to get children back five days a week," Hite said. "We're still in the process of creating those plans together."

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney says reopening schools is not just good for the students, but for the entire city.

"I am very optimistic that reopening schools fully next year will further our cities recovery and support our student's long-term success," said Kenney.

It's been 15 months since Sabreeya Travis was in a classroom at Central High School, and says Wednesday's announcement is welcome news.

"In order to get back to normal we have to take a first step, which will start with the schools," Travis said.

But not everyone is ready.

Sharee Hall says she doesn't think she'll be sending her child back.

"My first-grader, they had so many COVID cases they had to shut it down," said Hall.

District leaders say in-person learning hinges on local health leaders and the CDC relaxing all social distancing guidelines in school buildings, which they expect to happen.

"Based on feedback from our educators, we know that hybrid learning, which is the current form, a mix of in-person and digital learning, is not ideal or a sustainable instructional option. So it will not be offered next school year," said Hite.

Charlie McGeehan, who teaches 11th and 12th graders, says, "My classroom still isn't cleared for occupancy for anyone, our ventilation isn't cleared in our building. I think there's still a lot of work to do to make sure our buildings are ready for students this fall."

The district says many safety factors were considered. And with COVID cases decreasing, more people getting vaccinated and access to the shots for people 12 and older, fully reopening, it's the right thing to do.

The Philadelphia Federation of Teachers says it will work to make sure all the buildings are safe for students to return to.

"We are constantly assessing buildings and will continue to do that during the summer and will be able to determine whether or not they are or are not," said PFT President Jerry Jordan.

Earlier this month, students in 6th through 9th grades returned to the classroom under a hybrid learning plan for the remainder of this school year.

It was the district's third and final phase of its hybrid rollout for the year.

The hybrid model consists of two days of in-person learning and three days of digital learning.

Seniors can celebrate their graduation at in-person ceremonies this year. The events will be held outdoors in accordance with capacity limits.