Several Philadelphia-area schools forced to go virtual due to COVID-19 protocols

The A. Philip Randolph Career Academy in East Falls is the latest school placed on a "48-hour pause."

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Tuesday, December 21, 2021
Philly-area schools shift to virtual learning amid COVID rise
Montgomery County health officials have reported a total of 18 cases at Harriton High School, most of them breakthrough cases.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Schools around the Philadelphia region are taking action in the wake of a COVID-19 outbreak.

Six schools within the School District of Philadelphia are on a "pause" and have switched to virtual learning.

The A. Philip Randolph Career Academy in East Falls is the latest school placed on a "48-hour pause" by the city's health department. Already, the ninth-grade class of the school is quarantined.

The Philadelphia Department of Public Health puts a school on pause for 48 hours and then assesses how to move forward. Health officials then decide if they should quarantine the entire school, a class or a group of students.

When schools are put on pause or told to quarantine, they move studies to virtual learning.

SEE ALSO: Dozens of Olney Charter High School teachers call out sick after student's COVID death

The latest wave of COVID-19 infections has teachers at a Philadelphia school demanding more be done to protect them in the classroom.

"We trust their recommendations and guidance and we follow it to a 'T,'" said Philadelphia School District Spokesperson Monica Lewis. "We've had those schools pause or close in-person learning, and the students will have digital learning options until their pause date ends. We're not blind to the fact that numbers are going up right now. We're doing everything we can to make sure our mitigation efforts are upheld."

Olney Charter High School, which is not part of the Philadelphia School District, moved to virtual learning Monday after school officials say 41 teachers called out in protest following the death of a student from COVID-19.

Alayna Thach, 17, passed away last week. Her funeral was held on Saturday. Some of the teaching staff became critical of the school's handling of her death.

Aspira, the company that owns the charter school, said it has implemented multiple preventative COVID measures with sanitation and safety.

SEE ALSO: Finding your nearest COVID-19 testing site in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware

They released a statement saying, in part, the teachers are "demanding additional safety protocols without citing any relevant detailed claim despite the fact the school administration has taken thorough open measures to protect the health and safety of students and staff."

The union fired back, saying:

"Aspira's dishonest reaction to pleas for safety in the wake of the death of a 12th grader just last week from COVID-19 clearly illustrates their depraved priorities - more concerned with their public image than with the safety of students and staff."

Thach was an honor student who was looking at colleges. A representative for Aspira said staff and students are taking it hard, and they arranged for in-person counseling on Monday.

Outside of Philadelphia, a COVID-19 outbreak at Harriton High School in the Lower Merion School District has led to the suspension of all extra curricular activities this week.

Schools across Philly region dealing with COVID outbreaks. George Solis reports for Action News at 11 on Dec. 20, 2021.

On Monday, notices were sent out to parents and students to alert them of changes as Montgomery County health officials work to trace the number of cases linked to extra curricular activities. So far, officials have reported a total of 18 cases.

School officials also noted that most appear to be breakthrough cases of COVID, meaning they've occurred among vaccinated parties.

In addition to canceling activities for the week, the school has also allowed students to switch to virtual learning.

COVID-19 numbers are also spiking in neighboring Chester County.

According to the Dowingtown Area School District's COVID-19 dashboard, over the last two weeks, Downingtown Middle, East and West schools have seen case totals in the double digits.