PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The Philadelphia School District announced Tuesday that they are delaying in-person learning and will remain virtual as the number of coronavirus cases rise in the city and state. The district initially planned to bring pre-kindergarten through second-grade students back into the classroom on Nov. 30, but that has been put on hold indefinitely.

“We have decided to remain 100% virtual at this time,” Philadelphia School District Superintendent Dr. William Hite said at a Tuesday afternoon press conference. “This means that our plan to begin transitioning to a hybrid learning model on Nov. 30 is on hold and all students will continue to engage in digital learning until further notice.”

The school district, in collaboration with the advice from city and state health officials, will continue an all-digital learning setting for all students as the pandemic remains at dangerous levels of transmission.

Of the 30,000 students who would have been able to return to the hybrid learning, only about one-third had chosen to do so as many parents were still skeptical about sending their kids back into the classroom.

Jerry Jordan, president of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers union, says this is the right decision and one his organization has been pushing for.

“It is so important for us to be mindful of the health and safety of our children and, of course, the staff who work in the schools,” Jerry Jordan said. “Putting a group of people in the confines of a school will only lead to an increase in people catching the virus.”

School district officials say they will follow the guidance of health officials before deciding on a safe return to in-person classes.

“Transitioning to hybrid learning and having students engage in face-and-face instruction with teachers is our goal but our top priority is the health and wellbeing of our students and our staff,” Hite said.

The decision to delay in-person learning comes as Philadelphia reported 879 new coronavirus cases. Philadelphia Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley says the case counts now are higher than anytime during the pandemic.

“We’re in a dangerous period in the coronavirus pandemic,” Farley said.

School district officials say they will use this extended time to shore up many of the school buildings for a safe return for students.


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