PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The School District of Philadelphia announced a hybrid learning plan for reopening schools in the fall on Wednesday. The plan includes a split schedule, two days of in-classroom learning and three days of virtual learning. For those not comfortable sending their children back to the classroom, an entirely virtual program will be offered.
“We have a fundamental responsibility to resume teaching and learning throughout the school year for all students, and we are fully committed to doing so with equity, safety, science and the many needs of our stakeholders guiding our decision making,” Superintendent Dr. William Hite said. “The plan reflects several months of working with public health experts and other leaders from across Philadelphia and the country, and listening to the ideas and feedback of our families, school leaders, teachers, staff, students, unions and other key stakeholders.”
The district is proposing to delay the first week of class to Wednesday, Sept. 2, so they have time for additional COVID-19 and digital learning preparations.
All schools will undergo thorough cleaning throughout the day and signage will detail social distancing guidelines.
“It is a set of guiding principles to ensure that our students and staff can return to learning and work environments that keep health and safety as our top priority,” Hite said.
Also, there will be no cafeteria setting for lunches. Students will receive grab-and-go meals in the morning and afternoon to be eaten in their classrooms.
All students and teachers in grades six through 12 will be required to wear masks, which the district will provide daily — students may wear their own mask.
Students in pre-K to fifth grade will receive face shields and masks to better facilitate interactions between teachers and younger students who rely on visual and facial cues.
The younger students will be supplied with a maximum of two face shields and masks per week as needed. They will be required to wear a face shield or mask while riding on district-provided transportation.
Other social distancing guidelines will be followed, as well, including keeping students desks six-feet apart from one another and adding clear, physical barriers in reception areas, front offices and other workspaces where face-to-face interaction with the public occurs.
There will be no mandatory COVID-19 daily tests administered, but students and staff will be asked to monitor themselves for symptoms and report any contact with positive cases.
School district officials say the fall reopening plan was developed in partnership with state and local health experts as well as guidance from the CDC.
Officials are also preparing for the inevitable.
“We are preparing for when, not if, positive COVID-19 cases impact one or more of our school communities,” Hite said.
“If we have high rates of community spread and we believe that the school system is contributing to that in some important way, then that would be the criteria that we would shut down the entire system,” Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley said.
And in a different survey, seven out of 10 Philadelphia educators said they had significant concerns about returning to school before a vaccine is developed.
The World Health Organization says there are 23 potential COVID-19 vaccines in the human testing process globally.
There is no recommendation or mandate from the School District of Philadelphia regarding students or staff receiving COVID-19 testing before returning to school.
To read the School District of Philadelphia’s full reopening plan, click here.
CBS3’s Jan Carabeo and Natasha Brown contributed to this report.