PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- On Tuesday, the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers released its recommendations for the School District of Philadelphia if students are to return in-person in the fall, one day before the city's school district was set to release its reopening plan.
The 13-page document outlines nine "critical criteria" that advocates say must be met in order for schools to reopen safely:
- Virus tracking
- Alternatives to in-person instruction
- Contact tracing
- Facilities evaluation and remediation
- Decluttering, cleaning, and sanitizing
- Stakeholder feedback
- Fidelity of implementation
PFT President Jerry Jordan said ultimately teachers want to return to in-person learning but it must be done safely because lives are at stake.
"This is a new world and it's our way to require so many things, including accommodations for the educators who have underlying conditions," said Jordan. "They want to work but they certainly can't and should not jeopardize their health and the health of their families."
The report then delves into critical recommendations on seven related topics:
- Educational framework
- Physical distancing program
- Hand-washing program
- Personal protective equipment
- Decluttering, deep cleaning, & disinfecting
- Medical screening/testing, contact tracing, isolation, & quarantine
- High-risk staff and students
Charlotte McCracken, a K-4 Science Specialist at Bache Martin School, said she doesn't know how it is possible for students to socially distance, explaining that the majority of school buildings are old and cramped.
"Our rooms are tiny, the windows, there's ventilation issues," said McCracken. "Also just with our bathroom situation, there are older bathrooms, not a lot of sinks, soap is always an issue."
As school advocates outline the need for PPE in the classroom, healthcare providers highlight the shortage they face across the country and some caution reopening in September.
"So when the shortage of PPE starts to run out, who gets prioritized?" asked Marion Leary, R.N., MSN/MPH, Director of Innovation at the University Pennsylvania School of Nursing. "Those are questions that need to start being considered - PPE is critical for our healthcare providers and it is going to be critical for our teachers and students."
Leary also added that there is concern regarding spending extensive amounts of time inside buildings, combined with the timing of the flu season.
"In the fall season, you're not just talking about COVID, you're talking about the flu," said Leary. "It's flu season, which means they have similar symptoms so how are you going to track symptoms, how are you going to isolate students, how are you going to screen students every morning?"
A Philadelphia Schools spokesperson said Superintendent Dr. William Hite was unavailable for an interview in response to the PFT guidelines. School administrators plan on releasing a reopening plan on Wednesday.
In a statement, the district said:
"We have reviewed the communication from the PFT and believe that our reopening plan is in alignment with what its members view as necessary actions to ensure a safe and healthy environment for students and staff. We value the partnership that we have with the PFT and all unions and believe that we must work together to effectively execute a plan that is best for all stakeholders. This work will not be easy, but we look forward to continuing to stay engaged with the PFT over the coming weeks and throughout the school year as we all deal with the uncertainty caused by this pandemic."