Posted on February 8, 2021
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Categories: News from Our Superintendent, News from SDP

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After nearly a year of 100% digital learning due to COVID-19, our School District will soon begin slowly and safely phasing in groups of staff and students for in-person learning. Students who choose to transition to a mix of in-person and digital learning (hybrid learning) will attend school in person two days per week — on their assigned days only — and engage in digital learning the remaining three days. PreK-2 students whose families selected hybrid learning during the initial selection process in the fall will phase in first, with PreK-2 teachers and support staff reporting two weeks prior so they can begin the necessary training and classroom preparation that is critical for them to lead safe and engaging learning environments for students.

This milestone reflects 11 months of careful and science-based preparation by thousands of District staff who have been working tirelessly in our schools to ensure every school has a wide range of safety layers in place as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Pennsylvania and Philadelphia Health Departments. These include:

  • enhanced cleaning protocols using EPA-approved cleaning products,
  • new classroom and bathroom setups to ensure social distancing,
  • maximum occupancy and safety signs throughout,
  • inventories of PPE for staff and students to support mandatory mask wearing and facial covering while in schools,
  • plexiglass partitions in offices,
  • touchless hand sanitizer stations and hydration stations in hallways,
  • rapid testing for students and staff, and
  • pre-screening protocols for students and adults.

The science from the CDC is clear that when proper safety precautions are in place, the risk of transmission in schools is low. All of these layers of safety are in place in our schools.

The District has spent about $65 million due to COVID-19. That includes nearly $4 million in ventilation assessments, repairs and enhancements to ensure healthy air flow, in accordance with guidelines from the EPA. Window fans are temporarily being installed in rooms that do not have operating ventilation systems. Any room that we cannot ensure will meet ventilation standards for any reason will not be used.

We’ve also invested over $250 million since March 2020 to: certify 28 more schools as lead safe; remove over 229,000 square feet (five acres) of asbestos containing material like pipe insulation and floor tile in 183 schools; complete major projects like new science and computer labs, bathroom renovations, locker installations, mechanical systems upgrades in 11 schools; and modernize 147 early literacy classrooms.

While vaccines are not a requirement for the return to schools, we are excited to work with the City of Philadelphia and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia in an effort to make school vaccination sites available across the city so our staff can easily and conveniently get vaccinated if they choose to do so once vaccines are available.

As I’ve said many times before, the only way to navigate this pandemic is together. In-person learning can phase in safely if we all do our part, remain patient and flexible, and plan ahead. I encourage you to visit this page often for the latest updates, information and resources.