Posted on August 31, 2021
Categories: News from SDP

PHILADELPHIA — Today, the School District of Philadelphia welcomed back more than 120,000 students as it started the 2021-2022 school year. This marked the first time that schools were open for full, in-person learning five days a week since the COVID-19 pandemic closed buildings in March 2020.

Superintendent William R. Hite, Jr., Ed.D. visited several schools today, welcoming students and extending appreciation to staff who have diligently worked to prepare for the new school year. The District starts the year with several COVID-19 mitigation strategies in place, including:

  • Mandatory mask wearing for students and staff regardless of vaccination status;
  • Weekly COVID-19 testing for employees and on-site COVID-19 testing for students who present with COVID-like symptoms during the day;
  • Test to Play/Perform Model for athletes who play high risk sports and students participating in select performing arts (band and choir);
  • Enhanced cleaning protocols during the school day and for several hours after the school day ends at every school using EPA-approved cleaning products;
  • Added air & surface purifiers in all instructional spaces, gyms, cafeterias and offices;
  • Testing more than 1,000 touchless hydration stations in every school to ensure they are fully operational and comply with all regulations for safe drinking water;
  • Maintaining touchless hand sanitizer stations and school supplies to support frequent hand washing and sanitizing by students and staff;

The District also invested more than $160 million to complete major school construction, renovations and repairs, including removing asbestos-containing materials (ACM) from 35 schools where environmental and capital projects are underway (since last summer, the District has removed more than 12 acres of ACMs from our schools).

“We know this has been a tough 18 months for everyone, and there will continue to be challenges as we navigate the pandemic. But, today has been an exciting day for our District,” said Superintendent Hite. “To see the joy on the faces of students, staff and families as they returned to school today is a feeling I can’t quite describe. It’s great to have students back.”

In addition to the return to full, in-person learning, another highlight of the new school year is the opening of three new school buildings — Northeast Community Propel Academy, Powel/SLAMS, and Solis-Cohen.

  • Northeast Community Propel Academy, located at 7500 Rowland Ave., was built to address the extraordinary growth in the Northeast community. The 180,000 square foot kindergarten through eighth grade school can host up to 1,660 students. This building features classrooms and collaborative zones with shared media and tech commons for each grade level. The project was led by Gilbane Development Company.
  • Samuel Powel Elementary/Science Leadership Academy Middle School, located at 3610 Warren Street, is an 87,000 square foot building in West Philadelphia hosting up to 720 students. The school was funded through a partnership with Drexel University, which secured additional funding from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and New Markets Tax Credits, aided by generous contributions from the Lenfest Foundation, PECO, Wexford and Ventas.
  • Solis-Cohen Elementary School, located at 7001 Horrocks Street, is a 140,000 square foot kindergarten through fifth grade school that features energy-efficient equipment and lighting as well as a green roof and stormwater management system. The building is on track for LEED Gold certification.

Yesterday, the District announced that ongoing improvement projects at Science Leadership Academy at Beeber (SLA Beeber) would require students to engage in virtual learning with their SLA Beeber teachers Tuesday, August 31 through Friday, September 3. All District offices and schools are closed on Monday, September 6 and Tuesday, September 7 for the Labor Day and Rosh Hashanah holidays, respectively. Beginning Wednesday, September 8, students in grades five through eight will relocate to attend in-person learning at the former Powel School Location (301 N. 36th Street) for the remainder of the school year while students in grades nine through 12 will engage in in-person learning at SLA Beeber as the remaining renovations are completed with safety and cleaning protocols in place.

The District will also continue its work to implement the Board of Education’s resolution which requires all employees, barring medical or religious exemption, to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.