Town halls announced to discuss reopening of Philadelphia schools

Melissa Mitman

As positive coronavirus cases continue to rise in Philadelphia—91 additional cases were confirmed on Tuesday—School District of Philadelphia Superintendent William R. Hite and city officials are asking residents for their input regarding the reopening of Philadelphia schools. 

A key component is obviously safety measures to ensure the well-being of students, faculty and staff, but more specifically, the School District of Philadelphia wants to know what a return to school would look like, how exactly it should be implemented and what type of scheduling would be most effective.

“Looking ahead to the upcoming school year, we must make some important decisions about what school will look like and how our students will experience learning. We are approaching this work thoughtfully, collaboratively and with an enormous sense of responsibility,” Hite said. “We will be guided by a core set of principles that reflect our highest priorities: the health and safety of our students and employees, the consistent delivery of high-quality educational experiences for all students and the engagement of our School District community.”

On Tuesday, Hite announced the launch of the Advancing Education Safely Town Hall Series, which will consist of five virtual sessions allowing district leaders to address the public directly. These forums are meant to promote open communication on safety protocols, instructional design, curriculum, facility enhancements and scheduling of a potential school calendar. 

The sessions will take place from July 7-9 and can be accessed online. Dr. Barbara Klock, Medical Officer; Dr. Malika Savoy-Brooks, Chief of Academic Support; Alicia Prince, Acting Chief of Facilities Management and Capital Programs; Dr. Evelyn Nunez, Chief of Schools; and Dr. Barbara Klock, Medical Officer will each lead the various discussions. Philadelphians can also voice their concerns through the district’s Feedback Form.

On Tuesday, Hite also released findings in a recent survey that analyzed safety protocols being considered in reopening Philadelphia schools. The survey, which was open from June 15 to 22, was completed by more than 36,000 respondents. 

Superintendent William R. Hite. Metro File Photo

The survey concluded that wearing masks was rated the most important safety measure among all participants. Ensuring the schools were properly cleaned daily, handwashing stations, checking everyone’s temperature as they entered the building and staggering schedules were also popular safety precautions among the respondents. Full results of the survey are available online.

“Our initial planning includes three scenarios — in-person learning, digital learning and a hybrid learning model,” Hite explained. “We are in daily contact with public health experts and other leaders from across the city and country who are sharing best practices and expanding our thinking as we consider the many complexities of how daily school operations, academics, school safety protocols, student transportation, meal service, employee policies, and much more will need to change to promote safe and inclusive environments for everyone.

“There is still much work to do. Our goal is to share a final plan in July so our District and our families can prepare for a successful and safe school year.”

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