Philly families cope with last-minute changes as students take virtual classes, due to poor air quality

The air quality in the area drastically improved Friday, with the Pennsylvania DEP issuing a Code Orange air quality alert for the commonwealth until midnight.

The air is still hazardous for groups of people like the elderly, kids and people with respiratory issues. The air quality alert with warmer temperatures was enough to cause Philadelphia schools to go virtual. Caretakers of students with the School District of Philadelphia found themselves in quite the bind Friday morning.

"It was a little frantic to be quite honest with you!" Said Camille Escobedo, who has a 9-year-old daughter in the school district.

The district announced mid-afternoon Thursday that all school would be done virtually on Friday, leaving parents to sort out plans for children at home. For caretakers, like Escobedo, a plan had to be formulated for her 9-year-old daughter.


"Somebody had to make a call at some point. At least we got news as to what that was. I think that because the Philadelphia school district has such old buildings I think that they made the right call because not all buildings have air conditioning," Escobedo said.

The decision to go virtual, while still requiring teachers to be in the buildings, was due to the Code Orange Air Quality Alert the city issued, due to historic wildfires in Canada. While the air is much improved, in comparison to Wednesday and Thursday, the school district kept kids home because air temperatures were warmer Friday and not all of the buildings have ac. District officials did allow graduation and other indoor ceremonies already planned to take place, saying, in part:

"We recognize that students, families, and staff have prepared for and are looking forward to these celebrations."

The statement also said students would be expected to learn from home, but Escobedo says that ship has likely sailed for the year. She says two years of COVID chaos has conditioned her family well for these types of curveballs. "Contingency plans is something you always have to have in your back pocket!"