Even as the School District of Philadelphia starts looking toward the possibility of reopening schools in the fall, it’s still trying to contact more than 1,000 students who are currently “unaccounted.”
Last week, Superintendent William Hite announced that there were some 500 students that had not logged in to school-issued Chromebooks or otherwise checked in with their teachers or principals, but this week that number jumped to more than 1,000.
Though Hite said the students, which the district considers “unaccounted,” don’t appear to be in physical danger, some of them are certainly going through hardships due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, as evidenced by the ones the district has been able to contact.
“Some have moved to homeless shelters, some have lost the ability to stay in their households, some family members have lost employment and have either moved away or moved out or moved in with someone else,” Hite said.
The district is working with the city’s Department of Human Services to contact the unaccounted-for students.
Also Thursday, Hite shared that the district hopes to restart in-person instruction in the months ahead.
“We’re committed to resuming classes for students in the fall … We don’t know yet what that may look like and we don’t know yet what the guidance will ultimately be from the health professionals,” Hite said, noting that schools would only reopen under more concrete guidance.
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If students are allowed to return to in-person instruction in the fall, campuses could look a lot different. Students and staff might be required to wear masks and have their temperatures checked, and schools might have to take additional measures like having more hand-washing stations or physical separators between student desks, Hite said.
Another concern is that the start of the fall schoolyear is also the start of flu season, he said.
“So, [I] understand the need to get back to some normalcy, but [I am] absolutely concerned about all of those things, and that’s why we are working on multiple scenarios and those scenarios will be based on the recommendations of the health community,” Hite said.
But while planning for the fall semester is currently underway, the district is also working to help students during the current spring semester.
Graduating seniors, Hite said, will be able to attend a virtual graduation ceremony on June 9. The ceremony kicks off at 11 a.m. and will be broadcast on the school district's television station, as well as its social media platforms.
“We know that no virtual program will ever replace the live senior experiences, like a prom and graduation, but we’re doing all that we can to honor those seniors that have worked so hard," Hite said.
Another way the district is helping seniors, Executive Director for Postsecondary Readiness Ali Robinson-Rogers said, is by setting up a hotline specifically tailored to their needs.
Students who call the hotline will receive help on the following topics: college readiness; careers in technical education; credit recovery, transcripts or enrollment in advanced placement classes; and workforce and military support. The number for the hotline is 215-400-4130.
In addition, graduating seniors will be able to enroll in an online summer program aimed at helping them transition to college. The program will offer master courses, as well as virtual college tours and information on what changes colleges are making in response to COVID-19, Robinson-Rogers said.
Details on when that program – as well as other summer school courses – will be offered are pending, Hite said.