School District moving forward with reopening plans for fall

The Philadelphia School District is making preparations to resume classes in the fall.

The district still isn’t sure if that will mean live instruction in school classrooms, but officials are working on several scenarios to make sure the 2020-21 school year begins as efficiently as possible.

“This is something we’ve been thinking about and planning for,” Philadelphia Schools District Superintendent William Hite said on Thursday. “School will resume in the fall and we know that it will resume in the fall, however we do not know in what form that will take.”

As the district anticipates a virtual graduation for the Class of 2020 on Tuesday, officials started looking ahead to the fall in hopes of returning to classrooms. The state recently eased restrictions on reopening schools as colleges and universities are expected to reopen classes tomorrow. Schools located in counties that have entered either yellow or green phases of the state’s reopening plan are permitted to resume classes on July 1.

Philadelphia is still in the red phase but expects to emerge to yellow soon, giving local schools the opportunity to plan to open doors.

Hite said the district is discussing three scenarios which include a full return of school and staff to classrooms, a plan to continue remote or virtual learning, or a combination of the two.

“It a form of hybrid where some staff and some students would return to offices and schools and others continue to work remotely for a variety of reasons,” Hite said of the third option. “Of course we would be adhering to all local, state, federal and CDC guidelines as we talk about reopening schools and we will be guided by that information.”

The district also expects to utilize feedback from staff and families. The district plans to unveil a “Reopening Survey”, which will be circulated to teachers, students and their families, in the hopes of gaining feedback on the efficiency of virtual learning, as well as safety concerns for a full return to live instruction.

“It’s to get input on a range of topics to help inform our planning,” Hite said.

School officials expect the survey to be circulated next week.

In order to reopen, the district would also have to be in-line with the state’s guidance plan, which requires public schools to develop a health and safety plan based on guidelines from the Pennsylvania Department of Health and the CDC. 
It would include guidelines on social distancing, face masks, restrictions on large gatherings and the cleaning and disinfecting of school buildings. Schools would also need to monitor and protect all students from COVID-19 symptoms.

Hite also said several school buildings are undergoing capital and environmental improvements in preparation of reopening. He said 70 schools will receive either environmental work or improvement work this summer, which could include asbestos removal at some of the schools.

“All buildings will be cleaned in compliance with CDC and health department guidelines before any staff or students return,” Hite said. “We will continue to provide information about this work as the summer progresses.”