PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The School District of Philadelphia unveiled its plan Wednesday to offer hybrid learning to students in pre-kindergarten through second grade starting after the Thanksgiving holiday. Parents have between Monday, Oct. 26 and Friday, Oct. 30 at 5 p.m. to choose between the hybrid model or continuing all-virtual learning.
Those who don’t make a selection will remain all-virtual.
As a single mom, Ashley Jeffcoat says handling virtual learning for her preschooler Ava hasn’t been easy. Ava is also eager to go back to school.
“I miss my teacher,” the 5-year-old said.
“I’m ready for her to go back,” Jeffcoat said. “As long as she’s safe, as long as she’s good.”
Jeffcoat will be among the parents opting into the district’s hybrid learning model for grades Pre-K through second, starting on Nov. 30. It will consist of two in-person days and three virtual.
“This whole pandemic and this whole virtual learning has disproportionately impacted some of our most needy families, particularly families with younger children,” Superintendent Dr. William Hite said in a virtual news conference unveiling the plan. “We have heard from lots of situations where this plan is just not working for those families, who need to go off to work, who need their children engaged in face-to-face instruction.”
In a video to parents, Dr. Hite outlined many of the precautions the district is taking to protect students and staff, including providing masks, hand sanitizing stations, and social distancing in classrooms.
Still, Philadelphia Federation of Teachers President Jerry Jordan has concerns about the readiness of the district’s aging buildings, especially when it comes to ventilation.
“We want children to return to school, but only if they can return to a healthy and safe environment,” Jordan said. “Hopefully, the buildings will be prepared, but as of today, I cannot say that.”
If all goes smoothly, students with complex needs in grades three through 12 can choose hybrid learning in January, followed by ninth grade and Career Technical Students (CTS) in late January to early February. Some parents Eyewitness News spoke to say they’ll still be opting out.
“I’m not going to send my child to school until about next year, just because I want them to go through all of the kinks and everything,” said Kadijah Spencer of Southwest Philadelphia.
”As far as I’m concerned, if they could just keep it online until everything calms down to 100%, then I think it’ll be better off for everybody,” said William Colon of North Philadelphia. “But everybody’s got their own decisions, their own opinions.”
If the plan is approved by the school board, teachers would be back in school as early as Nov. 9, in order to prepare their classrooms for students’ return.
There’s no timeline yet for when students outside of the outlined categories will return to the classroom. Dr. Hite said the district could revert back to all-virtual at any time if health officials deem it not safe for students to be back in school.