Philadelphia School District delays return of hybrid learning, will remain virtual 'until further notice'

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- The Philadelphia School District said Tuesday it is delaying plans to return some students to a hybrid learning model amid a rise in COVID-19 cases across the city, state and country.

In a letter obtained by Action News, Dr. Evelyn Nunez, chief of schools for the district, says all students will continue with 100% digital learning "until further notice."

"It continues to be our goal to transition to hybrid learning; but we remain committed to doing so only when guidance says it is safe to do so," the letter said.

During a news conference, Dr. William R. Hite, Superintendent of the School District of Philadelphia, said leaders will continue supporting families.

"As we continue with 100% digital learning. We will remain fully committed to supporting the needs of students and families. This means will continue to offer tech support and Chromebooks to those students who may still need devices to engage in digital learning," he said.

The district will also continue to provide meals to students each week.

PFT President Jerry Jordan said that while virtual learning is not ideal, the school district's decision is a "win" for students and educators.

"The decision to remain fully virtual for the foreseeable future will save lives. The science of COVID-19, paired with the massive ventilation and other facilities issues throughout the district, makes it clear: returning to school buildings, in any capacity, is unsafe right now," he said.

The district's transition to hybrid learning was going to occur in phases with the youngest elementary kids back on November 30. District high school students were scheduled to return to hybrid learning in January.

Now, there's no timeline for when students could return to the classroom.

"We hope to see these children in school before the spring," said Hite. "It's all going to be based on advice from the health community."

While the schools are empty, the district will work on building improvements, including ventilation systems.

As of Monday, Philadelphia has recorded 49,775 cases of coronavirus. Health officials noted that the city is now putting an emphasis on increasing access to rapid testing.
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