District Announces In-Person Learning for 2021-2022 School Year
May 19, 2021
PHILADELPHIA, PA — This morning, the School District of Philadelphia, alongside the City of Philadelphia, Philadelphia Federation of Teachers and leaders from other union officials, announced the intention for all students to return to full in-person instruction during the 2021-2022 school year. The District will welcome students back to in-person learning five days a week beginning Tuesday, August 31, with the safety and well-being of everyone in school buildings being a top priority.
“We understand both the need and importance of our students returning to full in-person learning, five days a week. Having students in classrooms with educators will help them heal and recover from the many devastating impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said William R. Hite, Jr., Ed.D., superintendent of the School District of Philadelphia. “We are in full support of the national call to action of reopening schools, and are confident that we can do so safely.”
Nationally, leaders from President Joe Biden and U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona to American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten call for a full reopening of schools this fall.
“Closing school buildings 14 months ago was one of the first large-scale precautions implemented to control the spread of COVID-19. While this was an important and necessary precaution, it has made the last year especially challenging for caregivers, parents, teachers, administrators, and students,” said City of Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney. “The full reopening of schools is a day we’ve all been waiting for. I’m especially happy for our students. They’ll enjoy the academic and social-emotional benefits of in-person learning – and after a long year of isolation and uncertainty, they’ll get to connect with their friends and teachers.”
The District made the decision to give families the option to return to full in-person learning in the fall given the current:
low (and declining) transmission rates in Philadelphia,
relaxing of COVID-related restrictions across the city and nation,
increasing number of people getting vaccinated which now includes children 12 years of age and older, and
fact that positive COVID-19 cases in District schools have remained well below one percent since hybrid learning started.
In March 2021, the Department of Education hosted the National Safe School Reopening Summit, where best practices on reopening schools quickly and safely were discussed. The full return of in-person learning for all students five days per week will remain dependent on the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the City of Philadelphia and the Philadelphia Department of Public Health (PDPH) officially relaxing all social distancing requirements in schools. Every school in the District will continue to follow any and all guidance from the CDC, Pennsylvania Department of Education and PDPH.
Through the federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funding, the District is projected to receive $1.1 billion. More than 11,000 community members participated in a survey to help prioritize fund allocations. In a fiscally responsible way that maximizes short-term pandemic response while achieving long-term, sustainable benefits to students, the initial investment plan will support students and schools with:
expanded before-school and after-school programs, and tutoring supports,
more social services and school-based behavioral and mental health supports,
additional resources for special education and ELL students,
more school-level discretionary positions,
centralized investments to maintain a one-to-one device ratio for students to support anytime, anywhere learning, and
expanded facilities improvements to support safe and health schools, while creating 21st-century learning environments (for a total of $2 billion in capital investments over the next six years).
For families with whom a return to in-person learning would pose a significant challenge, the District is exploring a 100 percent digital learning option. Details about this program will be coming in the near future.
The District is seeking input from staff and the community through a survey and small focus groups to help create formal plans for full in-person learning, as well as the new Digital School option. The survey,which opened this morning and will close at 5 p.m. on Friday, May 28.
In addition, the District is holding Back-to-School Engagement forums, a series of five focus groups in multiple languages so families can provide direct, verbal input, in a small group setting. These events take place May 26, May 27 and June 3.
The survey, along with the community forum registration, can be found at philasd.org.
William R. Hite Jr., Ed.D.
The School District of Philadelphia