Philadelphia's public schools will reopen in September under a hybrid learning model, in an effort to prioritize both the health and education of 202,000 students in 342 schools.
Under the hybrid model, most students will attend in-person classes two days a week, and engage in complete digital learning for three days a week. Superintendent Wiliam R. Hite Jr. and Mayor Jim Kenney announced the plan on Wednesday morning.
The fall semester will begin on Sept. 2, instead of Aug. 31 to allow for additional staff training if the Board of Education approves the plan. Philadelphia Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said COVID-19 cases are expected to occur within schools, and said the school district is prepared to close individual schools or the entire school district if necessary.
The plan could cost between $60 and $80 million depending on how many additional staff are needed, Hite said in a video message.
Penn also plans to conduct the fall 2020 semester through a hybrid model, allowing students to return to campus or complete the semester remotely. Classes with fewer than 25 students may meet in person at the professor's discretion, but the majority of fall classes are expected to be online.
Programs at Penn that interact with Philadelphia schools, such as Academically Based Community Service courses, are still deciding how to continue to support Philadelphia students and families.
ABCS Research and Program Coordinator Faustine Sun told The Daily Pennsylvanian that the Netter Center for Community Partnerships is currently planning for ABCS courses to be conducted online.
Students and teachers in the School District of Philadelphia will be required to follow health guidelines, and schools will provide students with a maximum of two face shields and five masks per week. Students and teachers from preschool to fifth grade will receive face shields, and students are exempt from wearing masks due to medical conditions or a disability.
The maximum number of people allowed in a classroom at one time is 25, when feasible, and schools will add plexiglass barriers for classrooms without space for desks to be 6 feet apart.
Families will still be able to opt-in to a fully virtual learning model, and the district plans to continue to provide support for those who need a device or internet access at home. Student attendance will be monitored, and students are expected to engage with material on a daily basis in order to be counted present.
Schools will not offer COVID-19 testing for students and staff, and those who test positive for COVID-19 are expected to stay home for at least 10 days and until symptoms improve.
Hite acknowledged concerns from working parents or single parents who may experience challenges by having children at home, and said the school district and the city will be working to provide resources for childcare.
“We have a fundamental responsibility to resume teaching and learning throughout the school year for all students, and we are fully committed to doing so with equity, safety, science and the many needs of our stakeholders guiding our decision making,” Hite wrote in a letter to the district community.
All comments eligible for publication in Daily Pennsylvanian, Inc. publications.