Students enrolled in the School District of Philadelphia could return to in-person learning next month under a new plan announced on Wednesday.
The district will follow a phased approach, with the youngest students returning to school first, NBC 10 Philadelphia reported. Students will follow a hybrid model, attending in-person classes only two days a week. Parents and guardians who are not comfortable with their children returning to school may choose for them to continue learning entirely online.
Students in prekindergarten through first grade will be the first group to return, beginning on Nov. 30. Third through twelfth graders with “complex needs” will be next to return, ideally in January, NBC reported. Ninth graders and students in career and technical education classes are expected to return in late January or early February, and the order and timing of the return for remaining student groups will be determined based on conditions.
Under the hybrid learning plan, students would start with only two days per week in the classroom, with enhanced safety measures in place. Students will be split into two cohorts, either attending in-person classes on Monday and Tuesday or Thursday and Friday. All students will learn remotely on Wednesdays, NBC reported.
Families must decide if their students will return to in-person learning between Oct. 26 and Oct. 30, NBC reported. Those who don’t make a choice will be automatically enrolled in entirely online classes.
Students will be required to wear masks and partake in daily self-screening for COVID-19 symptoms. It is also possible the district will mandate random testing of students, NBC reported.
“In-person learning opportunities will better meet the increasing needs of our students, especially our youngest learners and those with complex needs — and it’s the right thing to do,” Superintendent William Hite wrote in a letter to parents and staff. “But resuming in-person learning safely will challenge all of us in new ways.”
The district has invested $6 million in technology to permit teachers to livestream their lessons, reaching students learning from home and from their physical classrooms at the same time, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
The new plan still requires approval from the board of education before it can move forward, NBC reported.
Like Penn, the School District of Philadelphia had planned over summer to return to in-person instruction at the start of the school year under a hybrid learning model. After backlash regarding safety concerns, they too reversed course and started the school year entirely online.