Philadelphia parents express school reopening concerns during virtual 8-hour meeting

Friday, July 24, 2020
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An 8-hour meeting ended with no decisive plan on reopening Philadelphia schools.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- In an 8-hour meeting that ended after midnight, Philadelphia school board members heard from more than 100 parents voicing their concerns on sending kids back to school amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Thursday night, officials presented experts to try and ease those fears.

The choice for many parents in Philadelphia is whether they want their children attending school two days a week, or choosing to go completely virtual.

"I really think they should just be doing online. I think you should be teaching your kids at home," said Tammey Abner of Northeast Philadelphia.

READ MORE: School District of Philadelphia planning split schedules, virtual learning this fall

"Right now, I think me and my husband are considering doing virtual," said Danielle Szydik of Mayfair.

"Honestly, I don't want my kids going back to school, I'm gonna do home school," said Jessica Torres of Mayfair.

Philadelphia Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley and his assistant, Dr. Stacey Kallum, said they looked at studies in Australia and Ireland where schools have reopened.

"Schools are not hot spots for COVID-19 transmission," said Kallum.

"We see no evidence that schools are important contributors to community-wide transmission. We do think schools in Philadelphia should open up for on site instruction this fall," said Farley.

But already, in just one day, 2,000 of 125,000 students in the school district have opted for online learning only when schools are set to reopen September 2.

Superintendent Dr. William Hite said face-to-face learning is particularly important for children from circumstances of poverty, especially Black and Latino children even if it's just two days a week.

"I worry about these young people falling further and further behind without the assistance of some face-to-face instruction," said Hite.

He asked for another week to rework his reopening plan.

The meeting ended with no decision just before 12:30 a.m. Friday. School officials voted to recess until next Thursday at 4 p.m.