School District of Philadelphia announces details on reopening schools using hybrid learning plan

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Leaders of the School District of Philadelphia announced details Wednesday on reopening schools using a hybrid plan, which will include in-person learning for the first time since March of last year.

The goal is to start with pre-K through 2nd-grade students next month.

PreK-2 students whose families selected hybrid learning during the initial selection process in the fall will phase in first, beginning on Monday, February 22, officials said. Staff supporting our PreK-2 students will return to school buildings on Monday, February 8 to prepare.

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Leaders of the School District of Philadelphia announced details on reopening schools using a hybrid plan.

PreK-2 families who chose to remain 100% digital during the selection process will have the chance to opt-in at a later date.

Under the hybrid model, students will be in class two days a week and work remotely the other days.

"Here is one thing we know. We know that children, especially our youngest learners and those with complex needs, learn best in person," said Superintendent Dr. William Hite.

School leaders say research from medical experts and the CDC, shows that in-person learning can be done safely.

According to officials, every school has safety measures in place, including:

- pre-screening requirements for students and staff
- personal protective equipment (PPE) for staff and students to support mandatory mask-wearing and facial covering, - new classroom and bathroom setups to promote social distancing
- plexiglass partitions in offices
- touchless hand sanitizer stations and touchless hydration stations in hallways

- maximum occupancy signs outside each room & safety signage throughout
- enhanced cleaning protocols using EPA-approved cleaning products

Hite said ventilation assessments have also been completed and any necessary repairs and/or enhancements are underway.

"Safety and family choice are our highest priorities as we slowly phase into in-person learning," he said. "We have been preparing for this transition since Spring 2020, and take very seriously the responsibility of putting multiple, proven layers of safety in place to safeguard the health and well-being of our students and staff. "

At this point, it's not clear when students from other grades will be allowed to join the hybrid model.

"I don't want to commit to any other groups simply because we need to look at how this goes first," said Hite.

Officials push to reopen schools

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney and city Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley previously said they want to reopen schools as soon as possible.

SEE ALSO: In-person learning during pandemic is possible with the right precautions, CDC says
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Experts from the CDC say that with the right mitigation measures, there is a path to low-risk, in-person learning.

They said data shows that younger children aren't as likely to transmit the virus and need to return to the classroom.

The infection rate within the community was previously too high to reopen, according to city leaders.

"The lower grades are the less exposed. They're also the citizens of our city who are losing the most ground by not being in school. The earlier years of the child's education are some of the most important years and these kids are almost a year behind now," said Mayor Kenney.

As for vaccinations: more than 330 school nurses in Philadelphia received their first dose of the vaccine last week.
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The Philadelphia School District is partnering with the city to begin vaccinating school nurses before the youngest students return to the classroom next month.

Right now, city leaders said it could be several weeks before teachers have access to the vaccine.

"Teachers are very important because we can help get the schools open if they're vaccinated, but they're not in contact with those sort of vulnerable people like someone who works in a nursing home," said Farley.

The district's plan aligns with President Joe Biden's efforts.

Biden has made reopening schools a top priority within his first 100 days in office and said it's possible to return safely.
"We need new ventilation systems in those schools. We need testing for people coming in and out of those classes. We need testing for teachers as well as students," Biden said.

SEE ALSO: President Biden pushes to reopen schools within 100 days as part of COVID-19 response
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President Joe Biden is pledging to reopen most K-12 schools within 100 days -- an ambitious goal as Covid cases surge and teachers across the country fight some plans to reopen.

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