The plan for Philadelphia public school students is to return to classrooms in some capacity during the upcoming school year, Superintendent William Hite Jr. said Tuesday.
The precautions and social distancing required for in-school learning is being worked out, Hite said, and details are expected to be released by mid-July.
“We are prioritizing and we’re prioritizing first by our most vulnerable children and then by our children who really need to be in front of a teacher," he said during a press briefing about reopening classes as the COVID-19 pandemic continues unabated.
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The district is expected to spend millions of dollars to make sure school buildings are safe for students, teachers and anyone else who must enter district facilities once the 2020-2021 year begins.
The added cost will hit the district at a time when the loss of local tax revenue in Philadelphia opened up a roughly $750 million budget hole for the city. Hite said he hopes that the district will receive $425 million in federal aid to help offset both the added expenses and lower revenue. That depends on whether Congress and President Trump can agree to a second federal stimulus package.
Hite also said that in a survey conducted by the school district, 47% of parents said they would be comfortable sending their children back to school in September if they were satisfied with the level of cleanliness and face mask protections put in place.
In-school learning is particularly important in some Philadelphia neighborhoods where access to broadband internet service in households is low. A survey of 478 teachers, conducted by NBC10 last month, found that educators believe nearly 1 out of every 4 city students rarely or never showed up for virtual lessons at the end of the 2019-2020 school year.
“Our goal is to share a final plan next week in order to allow our staff and families to prepare for the start of a successful school year," Hite said.