School board vote on Philadelphia's school reopening plan delayed after 8 hour meeting

The Philadelphia School Board heard from more than 100 people regarding concerns with the district's plans to reopen in a few weeks amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The meeting lasted more than eight hours and finally ended around midnight.

Among those who had their voices heard were teachers, parents, and even school principals.

Speakers expressed concerns over the school district's hybrid learning plan that was laid out last week by Dr. William Hite.

A majority of those who spoke said they favored remote learning over Hite's hybrid plan.

Starting on Sept. 2, the hybrid plan would combine both virtual and in-person learning. Some students will attend school on Mondays and Wednesdays, while another group of students attends class on Tuesdays and Thursdays. All students will work from home on Fridays.




Students with complex learning and pre-K students will attend face-to-face classes from Monday-Thursday with Friday virtual classes. All students will also have the option to opt-in for all-digital learning via Digital Academy. Registration for digital learning is slated to take place at the end of the month.

Officials say classrooms will primarily operate on the "cohort model," meaning the same group of students stay with the same teacher inside the same classroom for the duration of the school day. In this scenario, students are discouraged from intermingling with other students to contain the potential spread of the virus.

To ensure social distancing requirements are maintained, schools will be required to post traffic flow signage and decals throughout the building. Layouts for desks, tables and chairs will maintain six feet spacing in both classrooms and other common areas. When feasible, the maximum number of individuals, including students, teachers and staff, allowed in the same classroom is 25. Schools are being asked to prioritize plexiglass barriers for classrooms that have the most students or for classrooms without sufficient space for desks to be 6 feet apart

Meanwhile, teachers will teachers and staff are not permitted to use breakrooms and lunchrooms for gathering. In-person meetings are also discouraged and should continue to take place in a virtual setting whenever possible. Face coverings will be required for both students, teachers, and staff when inside all Philadelphia schools.

There will be another meeting next week.

Following the contentious school board meeting, Dr. Hite has said he will make revisions based on what they heard. He released the following statement Friday, following the meeting.

“Following the input from local public health experts and more than 100 educators, students, parents and community members during yesterday’s Board of Education meeting, we will spend the next few days thoughtfully considering potential changes to our Advancing Education Safely reopening plan. I want to be very clear when I say that the feedback received -- from unease around the risks of COVID-19 exposure to concerns about digital learning -- has been heard and will be considered. The reopening decisions we must make due to COVID-19 are difficult ones with no easy answers. We must thoughtfully weigh what we know about the pandemic from health experts with our fundamental responsibility to meet the many educational needs of our students while supporting everyone’s safety and well-being. This pandemic requires all of us to be flexible as circumstances change over the coming weeks and months. As superintendent, I am committed to listening to all of our stakeholders and providing our team of dedicated and qualified educators with the guidance necessary to provide our students with the learning environments they need and deserve.”


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