A Holiday Message from Dr. Watlington

Posted on December 20, 2022
Categories: News from SDP

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December 20, 2022

Dear School District of Philadelphia Parents and Families,

As we turn the page on this calendar year, I want to thank you for warmly welcoming me in as superintendent and engaging with me in the process of making our District better for all students!

I also want to express my excitement for the future. We are currently in the process of developing a new strategic plan for the District. Many of you applied to join our strategic planning advisory group, and I am thrilled to get started working with you. When I consider the outcome of this collaboration – dedicated District leaders and staff working alongside passionate parents and community members to devise a plan that will shape our next 5 years – the future is bright indeed!

For now though, we are headed into the well-deserved holiday break. As a reminder, all District schools and administrative offices will be closed December 26 through January 2, 2023. Staff will return on January 3, while students return on January 4. As you are spending quality time with loved ones, and taking time to relax, I encourage you to do everything you can to stay healthy.

Like the rest of the nation, we are still grappling with COVID-19 while dealing with other respiratory illnesses like the Flu and RSV. Increased social gathering during the holidays may increase the risk of exposure to these illnesses. We must all be extra vigilant in doing our part to help keep ourselves and those around us safe.

In an effort to be proactive about supporting physical health upon our return from the break, indoor masking will be required for all students and staff for the first two weeks of our return – from January 4 (the first day back for students) through January 13, 2023. This decision is in accordance with the General COVID-19 Protocols for the 2022-23 School Year that we shared with you earlier this fall, and is also in alignment with guidance from the Philadelphia Department of Public Health (PDPH) Accommodations are available in very specific circumstances. Accommodation request forms can be found here.

I would ask that you also be proactive during the break, and support a healthy return to school in 2023 by doing the following:

  • Get a flu shot and the COVID-19 vaccine or booster if you haven’t yet done so. Visit www.vaccines.gov to find a vaccine or booster location near you. Or call 215-685-5488 if you have questions about vaccination.
  • Wear a mask that covers your nose and mouth when indoors or around large crowds.
  • Get tested prior to spending time with family and friends over the holidays and prior to returning to schools, especially if you have symptoms of COVID-19 or have had close contact with someone who has COVID-19. District students and families can get free at-home test kits at our five school-based testing locations while supplies last.See a list of sites and hours of operation here.
  • Stay home if you are sick, or test positive for COVID-19.
  • Review our current COVID-19 protocols, which can be found on our COVID hub here. The District continues to closely monitor data from the PDPH and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. We will continue to follow their guidance and keep you informed of any changes.

As a District, we acknowledge that this time of year can be especially difficult for many people. Please visit phila.gov to find food or meal distribution sites in Philadelphia or call the Philly Hopeline at 1-833-PHL-HOPE if you or your child would like free counseling services.

There is a lot to look forward to in 2023. Until then, I hope everyone will take advantage of this joyous season to spend quality time with loved ones, catch up on a good book, play games with family and friends, eat delicious food, participate in traditions and new experiences. Come back renewed, so that together we can resume the work of becoming the fastest improving large, urban school district in the country.

Have a wonderful holiday and a Happy New Year! See you in 2023.

Tony B. Watlington Sr., Ed.D.

The School District of Philadelphia