Mayor Kenney, Superintendent Hite pen letter as students in Philadelphia begin school year remotely

Mayor Jim Kenney and School District of Philadelphia Superintendent Dr. William Hite penned an open letter to Philadelphians as students begin the school year entirely online.

"Today is the first day for Philadelphia’s public schools and it is certainly unlike any other in our lifetime. While we won’t see young people boarding a bus or walking to school, full of excitement, we do take joy in knowing that our students will be starting a new year of learning and growth," the letter began.

Kenney and Hite thanked those who worked tirelessly to ensure students were ready for remote learning. 

"Thanks to the incredible effort of our administrators, educators, support staff, and many others—the school year is starting as planned, with students logging online to meet their new teachers and classmates. When the COVID-19 pandemic unfolded, we began the work needed to create a new platform for students to learn remotely, something that has never been done here before. There was no instruction manual on how to navigate the new world we all find ourselves in today. And it quickly became clear to us that solving challenges as complex as those presented by digital learning and the digital divide was not something the City or School District could solve on our own.

“Thankfully, we are Philadelphia—a city that comes together when times get tough. A city that understands that NO child should be without reliable internet,” the letter added. 

They also hope to spread the word about PHLConnectED, a program created to bring free internet to 35,000 families that currently lack such service.

"This spring, leaders from Philadelphia’s business community, non-profits, and charitable foundations offered their support. First, we distributed more than 85,000 Chromebooks to students in need of devices, and then we hunkered down, determined to find a way to put our children and youth on the best educational path forward. Born out of this effort was PHLConnectED—a groundbreaking initiative that will provide up to 35,000 Philadelphia families with internet service at no cost to them until at least June of 2022," the letter said.

PHLConnectED is being spearheaded by several businesses, schools and civic leaders from around the city.

Last week, the city launched 211 which serves as a simple way families can learn about PHLConnectED and sign up. Just dial 211 and press option 1. The team is available 24 hours a day and is ready to walk anyone with a K-12 student through the process to obtain free internet.

"It’s true—nothing will replace in-person teaching and learning in a classroom. But we are confident that today, as Philadelphia’s students start the school year digitally, their futures remain incredibly bright. Our children are poised to learn, grow, and work toward their dreams," the letter concluded. 

The entire letter can be found below. Mobile users can view the letter, here.


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