School District of Philadelphia Announces Release of School Year 2020-2021: Advancing Education Safely Plan

Posted on July 15, 2020
Categories: Press Releases

PHILADELPHIA, PA — The School District of Philadelphia released School Year 2020-2021: Advancing Education Safely, a comprehensive plan to deliver uninterrupted high-quality instruction to students while maintaining healthy and safe environments for everyone, supporting the many needs of its students, families and staff, and adapting quickly to changing COVID-19 conditions.

The plan reflects months of collaboration among subject-matter experts from within the District, City of Philadelphia leaders, and local, state and federal public health experts, with strict adherence to guidelines put forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and in consultation with the Philadelphia Department of Public Health (PDPH) and representatives from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia PolicyLab. In addition to the input from educational and public health experts, the District used feedback from more than 35,000 respondents to its June Reopening Survey as well as input shared through online submissions, a series of virtual town hall meetings earlier this month, a survey sponsored by the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, and other methods to inform the plan for the 2020-2021 school year.

“This plan is a roadmap to help us navigate our way through unprecedented circumstances,” said Superintendent William R. Hite, Jr., Ed.D. “We have a fundamental responsibility to educate our students continually throughout the school year, and we are fully committed to doing so safely, thoughtfully and with equity and facts guiding our decision making.”

During a virtual press conference, Superintendent William R. Hite, Jr., Ed.D. was joined by City of Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney and Philadelphia Department of Public Health Commissioner Thomas Farley, M.D., M.P.H., both of whom addressed the ways in which city agencies have and will continue to work with the District as students and staff return to District buildings in the midst of a pandemic. Also joining Dr. Hite were Board of Education President Joyce Wilkerson, Chief of Schools Evelyn Nunez, Ed.D., District Medical Officer Barbara Klock, M.D., and Interim Chief of Facilities and Capital Programs Alicia Prince. Each shared details on how the District will implement a variety of extensive safety measures, enhanced cleaning protocols and a hybrid of face-to-face (FtF) and digital learning opportunities.

The hybrid model will allow for all students to participate in school five days a week with two days of FtF instruction either Monday/Wednesday or Tuesday/Thursday as assigned by the school and three days of digital instruction. Pre-K and Special Education students with complex needs will receive FtF instruction Monday through Thursday.  Families will have the opportunity to opt into full digital learning for all or part of the school year, and Chromebooks will continue to be available for any student who still needs one for learning at home.

Additional highlights of 2020-2021: Advancing Education Safely Plan include:

Safety Measures

  • Required Pre-Screenings for Entry to Buildings: All District employees, students, parents/guardians and essential visitors will be required to self-screen to assess for COVID-19 symptoms and check their temperature to ensure they do not have a fever.
  • Social Distancing & Hygiene: Everyone will adhere to frequent hand washing routines and practice 6-feet of social distancing. Classroom layouts will be provided to promote social distancing and occupancy limits will be implemented to further support student and staff safety.
  • Facial Coverings and Personal Protective Equipment: Everyone will be required to wear face coverings at all times. Students and teachers in grades Pre-K through 5 will receive face shields and masks to better facilitate interactions between teachers and younger students who rely on visual and facial cues. Students and teachers in grade 6 – 12 will be required to wear masks.

Cleaning Protocols

  • Deep Cleaning and Disinfecting of Buildings: All District buildings, in accordance with best practices from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Pennsylvania Department of Health and the Philadelphia Department of Public Health, will be cleaned and disinfected multiple times throughout the day.
  • Equipment and Supplies: Schools will be equipped with Environment Protection Agency-registered COVID-19 virucide disinfectant, equipment, electrostatic backpacks and other supplies for enhanced cleaning.
  • Ventilation: The District will replace air filters, ensure windows are operable and use portable fans to increase ventilation.

The plan also addresses student transportation; meal service; employee staffing and policies; training needs, and outlines the District’s Healing Together initiative, a plan to  help meet the social-emotional needs of students, staff and families in the wake of this pandemic and traumas caused by recent incidents of social unrest.

The Advancing Educational Safety Plan was developed with support from Accenture’s public sector practice in Pennsylvania, led by David M. Davis, which helps public sector agencies keep pace with change, innovate, and to improve citizen outcomes. Accenture brought with them their expertise from working with school districts across the country to help identify strategic options and support a safety-first approach to reopening Philadelphia’s public schools.

“Accenture’s Pennsylvania public sector practice is supporting a number of government agencies and departments in their response to the pandemic,” said David M. Davis. “Our team was proud to assist the District’s development of a school reopening plan that focused first on safety and equity, especially for vulnerable communities.”

“To be clear, this school year will be a challenge for us all as we learn how to cope with this ‘new normal,’” Hite added. “It will not be easy and we will all need to be flexible. However, we will absolutely be able to advance education safely, especially if we all understand that we’re in this together.”