PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — It’s back to the classroom for more students. In-person learning expands in the Philadelphia School District.
This latest milestone is happening after a lot of hard work by teachers, parents and administrators.READ MORE: Allegations Of Sexual Misconduct Involving Ocean City Beach Patrol Members Under Investigation
This is the day Philadelphia School District Superintendent Dr. William Hite has been waiting for — a day that children are back inside classrooms resuming some sense of normalcy after a year like none other.
“Seeing them come back into buildings and hearing the stories of those young children and their families and how so critically important it was to get young people back into schools,” he said.
The school district began reopening schools two weeks ago to pre-kindergarten through second-grade students for hybrid learning. They’re seeing more and more parents who want that option.
“We’ve also reopened the selection process for those who chose to remain digital,” Dr. Hite said.
Eyewitness News sat down with Dr. Hite at Greenfield Elementary School, in his first in-person one-on-one interview since the pandemic.
The district’s weekly rollout of school reopenings will continue with 35 more schools opening next week and as many as 9,000 students in schools by March 22.READ MORE: Multiple Faiths Joining Forces To Combat Philadelphia's Rising Gun Violence
The school district has already opened nearly 100 school buildings to pre-k to second-grade students with the intention of expanding to more grades before the end of the school year.
“We’re also looking to expand the grades, particularly at the elementary level, and we hope to expand to middle school,” said Dr. Hite.
An extensive summer school program will also be in place in schools around the city. The pandemic and the digital learning setting have created a glaring gap in learning for many students across the board.
“We normally see a gap or reduction over the summer, we call it the summer slide. It’s about six points, if you will. But this year, that gap has increased to about 16 points.,” said Dr. Hite.
Rising gun violence among young people in Philadelphia is another potential ripple effect of shuttered schools.
“Schools we serve more of a purpose than just educating children on the literacy and math. It’s also where we deal with social and emotional types of issues.,” Dr. Hite said.MORE NEWS: 2 Mothers, Babies Rushed To Hospital After Being Rescued From Burning Frankford Apartment Building, Officials Say
More than half of teachers and staff have already gotten vaccines, moving the district one step closer to a full reopening in the fall.