PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- The School District of Philadelphia has released its plan for students to begin a hybrid learning option next month.
School officials saying one of the driving forces behind this decision is the fact that in-person education is superior to virtual education, and that goes double for underserved communities.
"We have witnessed that the absence of in-person learning has disproportionately affected our most vulnerable children, which are low income and minority students," Dr. Evelyn Nunez, chief of schools for the district, said.
The district intends to move to that model the week of November 30, but families will have the option to remain all-virtual.
Families of Pre-K through 2nd-grade students will need to make a selection during a window of Oct. 26 to 30. If no selection is made, the student will remain in 100% digital learning.
The district says it is starting with the youngest students because "research supports that they benefit most from in-person learning."
Students with complex needs in 3rd through 9th grade would be phased in sometime in January.
Students in 9th grade and CTE students would follow next at a time yet to be determined.
Other grades would be phased in, based on conditions, over the following weeks.
"This phasing allows us to carefully monitor health and safety practices in schools and ensure that COVID-19 conditions support continued in-person learning," the district says in its Hybrid Learning Selection Guide.
According to a schedule posted on the district's website, there would be three groups:
A Students, who attend in-person learning on Monday and Tuesday;
B Students, who attend in-person learning on Thursday and Friday;
and 100% digital students.
On Wednesdays, all students learn remotely.
Teachers will deliver in-person instruction to the one group, and live stream to the other two groups at the same time.
"Schools that are unable to implement this model due to building capacity constraints, staffing needs, or other challenges will implement an alternative model that better supports student safety," the district says.
The proposed hybrid learning plan and timing could change due to factors including the number of teachers available to teach in person, school capacity constraints due to social distancing, number of families who choose to continue with 100% digital learning, "and the impact of ever-changing COVID-19 conditions are all factors that will influence how, when and if we can advance in-person learning."
The district says its goal is for all students to remain with their current teachers whether they engage in hybrid learning or remain 100% digital.
For meals, the district says students will receive grab-and-go meals for their fully digital days on the last day of their in-person learning each week.
Still, teachers union president Jerry Jordan says that while he also wants to see schools reopen, Wednesday's announcement offered little information about specific safety issues including PPE distribution and surface disinfection, just a name two.
"We have to make sure the classrooms are not overcrowded and violate the safety, social distancing guidelines," Jordan said.
Superintendent Dr. William Hite says he intends to have those issues pinned down over the next few weeks.
"We will not return if, in fact, it is not safe for students and staff. Even after we return, we will not remain in schools if it's not safe for students and staff," Hite said.