School Year 2020-2021: Advancing Education Safely

A Letter from the Superintendent

Dear School District of Philadelphia Community,

As we look ahead, we are approaching a school year that will look and feel unlike any other. We know that COVID-19 conditions in Philadelphia and the surrounding area will continue to evolve. That means the guidance we must follow from city, state and federal health authorities will also evolve — sometimes very quickly. This is our new reality. We must all be prepared for it.

We have a fundamental responsibility to educate our students continuously throughout the school year, and we are fully committed to doing so safely, thoughtfully, and with equity and facts guiding our decision making. School Year 2020-2021: Advancing Education Safely is our plan to deliver uninterrupted high-quality instruction to ALL students while:

  • maintaining healthy and safe environments for everyone
  • supporting the many needs of our students, families and staff as we are able,
  • and adapting quickly to changing COVID-19 conditions

In mid-July, after careful consideration, the School District revised its reopening plan for the 2020-2021 school year. The school year will start on Wednesday, September 2, 2020, allowing extra time for teachers to deepen their skills to provide students with engaging digital instruction. Our schools will start the school year with all students learning remotely for the first marking period which ends November 17th. Students will then transition to the hybrid learning model, which is a mix of in-person and digital learning, as long as guidance from the Philadelphia Department of Public Health and other indicators support that it is safe to do so. A 100% digital learning option will be available at that time, and we will continue to explore opportunities for students to be taught by teachers from their enrolled school. PreK students in District PreK programs will also receive digital instruction five days per week through the first marking period.

We know that the upcoming school year will be a challenging one for all of us. It will require our School District and the students and families we serve to be flexible as COVID-19 conditions continue to change. This “new normal” will not be simple or easy. But as I’ve said before, the best way to work through a crisis is together. Advancing education safely in the new school year will take each and every one of us doing our part. Together we can support a safe and successful school year for everyone.

Our Plan for a Safe and Successful School Year

Updated Reopening Plan Presentation

Our goal is to deliver high-quality instruction seamlessly to all students while maintaining the health and well-being of everyone involved — despite any changes in COVID-19 conditions. We recognize that while most of our students have been engaged in digital learning, students have been away from what they once knew as “school” for an extended amount of time. So we are preparing to thoughtfully address both the social-emotional and academic needs of our students.

Schools across our District will start the school year with all students learning remotely for the first marking period which ends November 17th. Students would then transition to a mix of in-person and digital learning as long as guidance from the Philadelphia Department of Public Health and other indicators support that it is safe to do so.

More details are available in this LETTER FROM DR. HITE: Choose your language to download (add’l languages coming soon!):
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Resources

Video Presentations

Reopening Plan Presentation by Dr. Hite at July 30 Board of Education meeting

Presentation by Dr. Farley at July 23 Board of Education meeting

SEPTA presentation by Mr. Sauer at July 23 Board of Education meeting

Frequently Asked Questions

Updated: August 10

What is the plan for returning to school in Fall 2020?

After careful consideration, the School District is proposing changes to its reopening plan for the 2020-2021 school year.

The new plan proposes to start the school year with all students learning remotely for the first marking period which ends November 17th. Students would then transition to the hybrid learning model — which is a mix of in-person and digital learning, as long as guidance from the Philadelphia Department of Public Health and other indicators support that it is safe to do so. A letter with more detailed information about the proposed plan was sent to the email address you have on file at your child’s school.

The Board of Education will consider the proposed changes at its meeting this Thursday, July 30 at 4 p.m.

What will the first day back to school be, in Fall 2020?

The District revised the first day of school for students to Wednesday, September 2, 2020. This allows for an additional week of professional development for our educators as they prepare for face-to-face and digital learning in this new environment. Any changes to COVID-19 conditions could further impact first-day timing.

How can I register for Kindergarten or 1st-12th grade for this fall?

We are currently developing a process for families to be able to register online.  Please continue to check back during the week of August 17th, for updates and announcements.

Please email the Office of Student Placement and Enrollment at osep@philasd.org with any questions or need for assistance in the meantime.

How will the District keep families informed of changes to the re-opening plan?

Regular Plan updates will be communicated through numerous methods including text, robocall, email, our District website (philasd.org/schoolstart2020), online FAQs and across District social media platforms.

If you haven’t already created or updated your Parent/Family Portal information, please do so to be sure you are receiving all communications. Details are HERE. We will also continue to provide updates via Superintendent Hite’s Facebook Live events every Wednesday at 3 p.m.

How will the District make decisions about whether to move to a hybrid model??

Decisions will be based on guidance from the Pennsylvania Departments of Health and Education, and our own assessment of meeting the various milestones we have set for the District, in terms of safe social distancing and health protocols for students and staff.

What happens if you were applying for Digital Academy?

There is no Digital Academy for the first marking period. All students will be taught virtually by the teachers at their home school. We will revisit Digital instruction during the hybrid phase, later in September/early October.

What will happen when the District decides to return to in-person instruction? If parents do not feel safe or if their child has a preexisting condition, will an all-digital option be available?

There will be an all-virtual option for students who cannot come back in person safely.

Will meals continue to be provided to students in the virtual model?

Yes meals will continue to be distributed, likely in a similar fashion to the summer meal sites and schedules. More information will be posted as soon as we have it.

How can we afford to do more (more cleaning, more building enhancements etc), now, when money has always been an issue before?

The District has taken many measures to help offset some of the $60 million – $80 million in projected costs associated with COVID-19 response efforts, including: maintaining a hiring freeze for all non-essential positions, applying for COVID-19 grant funding, and exhausting our fund balance which serves as the District’s emergency fund.

We still need more funding support to help offset these costs and others that may be on the horizon. To learn more about how you can help the District secure additional funding support, visit philasd.org/fundourschools.

Is the District continuing to address issues like asbestos, during this period of closure?

Since the closure of our school buildings in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the District has accelerated its improvement efforts in its school buildings. We’ve invested nearly $264 million in improvements across 61 schools.

Learn more HERE

How will PreK be handled this fall?

District-operated PreK in District buildings will also operate remotely through November 17th.  Chromebooks are being purchased for students enrolled in District-operated PreK programs and will be distributed to our PreK families as soon as they are available so that preschoolers can receive daily digital instruction until the school buildings re-open for face-to-face instruction.  By implementing a daily schedule that provides opportunities for hands-on, independent activity as well as teacher-facilitated digital instruction at the whole group, small group and individual levels, no child will be expected to spend more than 90 minutes on screen on any day. Parents who want their preschool children to receive face-to-face instruction during this time will be referred to one of the District’s partner PreK providers for service. You can get more information about PreK options for the 2020-2021 school year by visiting  www.philasd.org/prek.

How did the District make decisions about returning to school in the fall?

Engaging families, students, staff, community members, health experts and leaders from across the city, state and country was an essential part of how we approached the development of this Plan. We received more than 35,000 responses to our District Re-Opening Survey and reviewed the more than 6,000 responses to the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers survey. We also received extensive input in other ways such as our online Feedback Form, Virtual Town Hall meetings and in meetings with other large urban schools districts from across the country. A Principal Advisory Board was also involved to ensure the voices and perspectives of our principals were heard.

Other contributors to this work include: Philadelphia Department of Public Health; PolicyLab at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Pennsylvania Department of Education; and City of Philadelphia leaders.

When do employees have to return to work at 440?

We are working on a plan for the phased return of 440 administrative staff which will be guided by our health and safety protocols. More information will be shared once the plan is finalized.

Will students be assessed when they come back to school in the fall?

We understand that our students have experienced a learning loss and that we need to get our students back on track and learning grade-level content. Data analysis of student achievement and rate of improved progress demonstrates a need to focus our instructional expectations and identify key assessments that will enable a response to intervention as quickly as possible to decrease gaps in learning.

 

At the start of the new school year, our educators will use District-assigned assessments in ELA and Mathematics and use school-based assessment options to assess students in content areas. The purpose of the assessments are to determine the class, group, and individual trends in skill/concept mastery, or lack thereof, as it aligns to grade-level standards for learning. The data will inform small group instruction, activation and connection to prior learning. A key component of this instructional design is observing and monitoring students’ learning, and making adjustments as needed. Students have the opportunity to reflect on their learning and teachers provide prompt class and small group feedback, and use formative assessments to inform instruction. The Office of Academic Supports will provide Pillars for Instruction that will include expectations and strategies for planning, assessment of students’ learning, classroom environment, and student engagement.

Will teachers take attendance in the upcoming school year?

All students are expected to attend school five days per week, whether face-to-face or digital, in alignment with state and School District regulations and requirements.

During both face-to-face and digital learning, teachers will mark student attendance. School-based and central office staff will actively identify students who are not regularly attending class and assist with addressing the barriers preventing each student’s attendance.

How can I find my student's Student ID?

The student ID is either a 7 or 8 digit number.

You can find this number:

  • on your student’s report card,
  • displayed on their student ID card,
  • by logging onto your child’s student portal account,
  • or by asking your child’s teacher.

If you have additional questions regarding how to access your child’s student ID number, please contact the Parent & Family Technology Support Hotline at 215-400-4444.

Since SDP will be all digital for the first marking period, does that mean that students will be taught by their regular school teachers?

Yes. More information about what the school day will look like will be available next week.

When we return to a hybrid model and we opt to remain virtual, will my student still have the same teachers?

When we transition to the hybrid model, we will continue to evaluate digital opportunities that prioritize students being taught by teachers in their enrolled school.

Will teachers be able to teach from their classrooms?

We are working towards that, yes. If classrooms and buildings are able to reach the milestones for safety, teachers will be allowed to teach from their classrooms.

Will there be opportunities for parent training to better support their child with virtual online learning?

Yes. We will be offering virtual training sessions for parents and families. We will share the schedule when available.

Q. During the first marking period, how will services be provided for students with IEPs?

Students with IEPs will be able to access and benefit from digital instruction. Students with IEPs will have opportunities to engage with their peers, general education teachers, special education teachers, and related services providers, all as prescribed by their IEPs, and will have access to the digital supports that align with their IEPs.

What does the daily schedule look like for online learning? How long will the school day be?

We will have more information on this week of Aug 10. Please tune in to our Facebook Live event to hear more about “A Day in the Life” of our students, on Wednesday Aug 12 at 3pm

How will our 8th grade students be handling school selection this fall? And are PSSA requirements being removed for this year, for special admits?

We know this is a topic many of our parents have questions about and we are working on answers. Please check back as more information becomes available.

Will students be able to pick up text books for the fall?

Yes. More details coming soon.

How will performing arts being handled?

All performing arts will be adapted for a virtual model.

How will PreK be handled this fall?

District-operated PreK in District buildings will also operate remotely through November 17th.  Chromebooks are being purchased for students enrolled in District-operated PreK programs and will be distributed to our PreK families as soon as they are available so that preschoolers can receive daily digital instruction until the school buildings re-open for face-to-face instruction.  By implementing a daily schedule that provides opportunities for hands-on, independent activity as well as teacher-facilitated digital instruction at the whole group, small group and individual levels, no child will be expected to spend more than 90 minutes on screen on any day. Parents who want their preschool children to receive face-to-face instruction during this time will be referred to one of the District’s partner PreK providers for service. You can get more information about PreK options for the 2020-2021 school year by visiting  www.philasd.org/prek.

How will the District approach the use of substitutes to account for the inevitable vacancies?

Kelly Services has been asked to hire more substitute teachers this year than in previous years to ensure we have adequate coverage both for day-to-day substitutes as well as potential long-term substitutes which may arise from people going out on extended leave.

Will there be student teachers for the 2020-21 school year?

Yes – student teachers are a critical part of our recruitment efforts. We deeply value our student teachers and want to ensure their continued presence to support our students.

While student teaching may occur remotely or on-site, the District is committed to working with our university partners to place student teachers.

Please note that universities must sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the District to place student teachers. (The form can be found at the SDP website HERE) Principals will coordinate their student teacher schedules to ensure proper social distancing is possible.

Will there be any extracurricular activities when we return to school?

Extracurricular activities will occur in alignment with the A/B schedule and all health and safety protocols. Extracurriculars that involve students from different classrooms can continue only if social distancing and masking can be maintained during those activities.

Learn more on page 24 of the Plan.

Will my student be able to play sports this year?

The District is employing a Return to Play (RTP) plan that includes a phased-in approach to resuming scholastic athletic programming. Across the phases, there are mentions of high-, medium- and low-risk sports, which are categories the NFSH has developed.

Learn more on page 24 of the Plan.

Will the public have access to reports on school specific facilities improvement plans and progress, which was referenced at the last board meeting?

Yes. Please visit this website to view information on current school improvement projects and any resulting environmental reports.

Will the ventilation/air quality studies be made available to the public? If so, where?

Yes. Occupancy of spaces based on fresh air intake will be included in the readiness dashboard that will be shared with the public. We will post them as soon as they are available, so check back for the direct link.

hat is being done about the asbestos problems in schools that were identified before COVID?

The School District has accelerated its asbestos abatement efforts while schools have been closed. Extensive environmental and capital improvements are happening this summer across more than 60. For information about what’s happening at your school, visit HERE. Note that if your school is not undergoing a project, it will not be listed on the website.

Will all students (current, new, PreK and K-12) be able to pick up Chromebooks if they need one this fall?

Yes. All students, including new, incoming students, who need Chromebooks will receive them. Some Chromebook Support Centers and hours are currently in operation on a limited schedule. Starting on August 17th, Chromebooks will be distributed 5 days a week from 9:00am-2:00pm at three Parent & Family Technology Support Centers.

Find more information, locations and times here.

Will my PreK or Kindergartener also receive a Chromebook?

Yes. All students, including incoming PreK and Kindergarteners, who need Chromebooks will receive them.

How can I get internet access?

Internet is provided by various companies for Philadelphia residents. Information on options can be found here, and we are working with these organizations to provide additional options.

Have additional questions?

There are many more questions and answers on our FAQ hub HERE.

What Mental Health, Trauma and Social-Emotional supports will be available for students and staff?

Since school doors were last open, our students and staff have experienced isolation; separation from friends, teachers, and colleagues; illness or loss of loved ones; and disruption of the familiar routines that made them feel cared for and safe. We have also experienced the pain and division caused by racial injustice and its harms to our nation and community. For all of these reasons and more, this is not a normal school year.

We will launch a Healing Together initiative that is designed to address the needs of our students, staff, and families in the wake of this sustained trauma. Healing Together encompasses an intensive focus in four areas: 1) mental health and trauma; 2) social-emotional learning; 3) relationships and community; and 4) adult wellness.

Learn more about our plans for Meeting the Mental Health, Trauma and Social-Emotional Needs of Students and Staff on pages 12-13 of the Plan.

How does the District plan to support families this fall?

The current COVID-19 pandemic has affected the families and communities the District serves in myriad ways – from widespread unemployment and food insecurity to the illness and deaths of loved ones. When it comes to education during these challenging circumstances, families need access to information and learning ideas, ways to understand the information, and ways to take action on it to support their children.

During this time of uncertainty and change, the Office of Family Engagement will provide key resources to help families including virtual trainings, support groups, a help line and more. See page 25 of The Plan for more details.

How does the District plan to support families this fall?

The current COVID-19 pandemic has affected the families and communities the District serves in myriad ways – from widespread unemployment and food insecurity to the illness and deaths of loved ones. When it comes to education during these challenging circumstances, families need access to information and learning ideas, ways to understand the information, and ways to take action on it to support their children.

During this time of uncertainty and change, the Office of Family Engagement will provide key resources to help families including virtual trainings, support groups, a help line and more. See page 25 of The Plan for more details.

How does the District plan to support teachers and other staff this fall?

All District staff will participate in various training and professional development sessions to support a safe and student-centered school start. These sessions will ensure all school staff members have the knowledge to follow and promote safety guidelines, as well as support students socially, emotionally and academically.

Another important aspect of supporting our workforce is to ensure that our staff have access to resources that support their physical and mental well-being. Individuals have faced many difficulties in the past few months, confronting issues with food insecurity, trauma, post-traumatic stress, illness and loss of loved ones and more. It is essential that we have multiple options, opportunities, and offerings for employees to feel supported, access needed resources, and address their mental health needs.

See pages 26-27 of The Plan for more details on our plans for supporting our staff.

Have other District-related Coronavirus questions?

Our general Coronavirus FAQs cover topics including meals, chromebooks, and more.

Q. Where is my P-EBT card; I need to update my address for my P-EBT card?

The P-EBT program is not a School District initiative. You can find more information by visiting the Providers Website here, or sending an email to ra-pwpebtquestions@pa.gov.

To submit inquiries regarding P-EBT and to report a lost or damaged issued P-EBT Card, please submit to the Online P-EBT Inquiry Form here.

For additional information you may also want to check the PA Department of Education’s FAQs here.

Feedback

As we develop and refine our plans for the upcoming school year, your feedback is essential.

Feedback Form

Have an idea or comment to help inform planning? Share it with us here.

(Choose your language to give feedback)
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Watch Virtual Town Hall Sessions

District leaders share information about their planning efforts for the upcoming school year.

Return-to-School Survey Results

THANK YOU to the 36,313 students, families and staff who provided their input!