Kenney says teachers are not required to return to schools during review of COVID-19 protocols

Philadelphia teachers are no longer required to return to school buildings on Monday as a third-party review of the district's COVID-19 safety protocols remains in mediation, Mayor Kenney decided late Sunday.

"The mediation process is still ongoing. Without a final decision from the mediator, teachers won't be mandated to report tomorrow, but any teacher who chooses to report is welcome to do so," the mayor's statement read.

Relishing in their "massive victory" the union is urging teachers to not enter school buildings on Monday and to continue scheduled protests. Prior to Kenney's decree, the union planned a "day of action for safe schools" to protest what they believe are inadequate COVID-19 protocols.

Union boss Jerry Jordan will be joined by American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten and state leader Arthur Steinberg on a four-stop tour of Philadelphia schools.

MORE: Philadelphia Federation of Teachers tells members not to report to school buildings Monday

Union leadership, which will also be joined by a cohort of educators and politicians, will hold an 8:30 press conference at Gompers Elementary School in the Overbrook section of the city. They also plan to make stops at FS Edmonds Elementary School, Edward T. Steel School and Richmond Elementary School.

In an email, PFT said its members are planning actions at hundreds of locations. Members are expected to host teach-ins and other actions, and thousands of educators will work remotely in front of their school buildings.

PFT and the School District of Philadelphia have been embroiled in a battle over the district's plan to welcome a limited number of pre-k to 2nd grade students back into classrooms on Feb. 22. The PFT previously called on a third-party to review to examine safety measures taken by the district, which include a plan to use window fans to address airflow problems in schools with broken HVAC systems.

Things reached a head on Friday when the union directed its members not to report to schools on Monday to prepare classrooms and receive training on new safety measures. 

MORE: Philadelphia teachers union calls for third-party decision on district's COVID-19 safety protocols

Superintendent Dr. William Hite called the union's directive "deeply disappointing" and claimed it violates the collective bargaining agreement that was met months ago.

In an email Friday, the district issued a scathing warning to its educators, writing in part: "If you are expected to be in your building on Monday and choose not to do so, you will be subject to disciplinary action." The union called it "nothing short of bullying" before Mayor Kenney struck down the threat on Sunday.


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