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Covid surge stymies Philadelphia's plans to resume some in-school instruction

Nov. 11, 2020
Students in Pre-K through 2nd grade had been scheduled to return to classrooms at the end of November.

Citing a surge in Covid-19 cases, the Philadelphia school system has canceled its plan to start bringing students and staff back to classrooms later this month.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. decided to indefinitely continue virtual instruction “to help safeguard the health and well-being of our staff, students, and school communities.”

Pre-kindergarten through second-grade students were supposed to return to school Nov. 30, with teachers in those grades scheduled to report Monday to begin readying classrooms for them.

Case counts in the city are at an all-time high; there has been an average of 515 new coronavirus infections per day in the last week. Nearly 50,000 Philadelphians have been diagnosed with COVID-19 since the pandemic began, and 1,901 have died from the virus.

Hite has said that he wants children, particularly the city’s youngest learners, to have the option to return to school as soon as possible. But it became clear that the Nov. 30 date was no longer realistic.

“We wanted to make sure that children had the appropriate conditions for learning to read, learning to do math,” Hite said. “Unfortunately, in many of our communities, those conditions do not exist, and that’s why we were doing our best to get kids back as soon as possible.”

Abandoning the Nov. 30 reopening affects about 10,000 students. In all, 32,000 children had been eligible to return to school at the end of the month, but of those, two-thirds had opted to stay home full-time.

Now, all 120,000 district students will remain home indefinitely.

For now, school employees who have been working from buildings, including principals and some support staff, are permitted to continue doing so.

The district still has no timetable for when the majority of its pupils, those in third through 12th grades, will return to school. Hite has said it’s possible they might not be able to return in the 2020-21 school year.

About the Author

Mike Kennedy | Senior Editor

Mike Kennedy has been writing about education for American School & University since 1999. He also has reported on schools and other topics for The Chicago Tribune, The Kansas City Star, The Kansas City Times and City News Bureau of Chicago. He is a graduate of Michigan State University.

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