PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – After 14 long months of virtual and most recently limited hybrid learning, the Philadelphia School District is preparing to welcome back all of its students in the fall. The announcement came Wednesday morning with school, city, and union officials all endorsing the plan.
Since early March, the school district has slowly phased in some students for in-person, two days-a-week hybrid learning, while the bulk of students have remained all virtual.READ MORE: 2 Atlantic City Councilmembers Request State Troopers Assist Police After Violent Weekend
Due to falling COVID-19 rates, higher vaccination rates and loosening COVID restrictions in Philadelphia, school officials believe now is the time for kids to get back into the classroom.
The ripple effects of school closures have been devastating on students and families.
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The school district has been committed to returning kids to classrooms as safely as possible and they believe they can now do that without reservation.READ MORE: 6 Day Workweeks And Poked By Needles: YaFavTrashman Fighting For Philadelphia Sanitation Workers' Safety
“Welcoming students back to our classrooms and surrounding them with caring educators is the best opportunity to help them heal and recover from the many devastating impacts of COVID-19,” Superintendent Dr. William Hite said. “These impacts include the emotional trauma of being physically separated from friends, teachers and family members, the loss of loved ones, heightened gun and domestic violence, and learning loss.”
“Because students will be safe and supervised in schools, our entire city will benefit as more parents and caregivers return to in-person and full-time work,” Mayor Jim Kenney said.
The full reopening plan is contingent upon the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention removing the 3-feet social distancing requirement in schools, which is expected to happen within the coming weeks.
The school district will be working throughout the summer offering summer programs to bring kids who need extra help back up to speed for a full return. They will also be working to repair some buildings making sure they’re structurally safe for a return as well.
Meanwhile, the plan is fully endorsed by the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers. The teachers’ union has been extremely critical of reopening plans in the past ensuring that students and staff return to safe buildings.
“We do endorse the returning of students and staff to five days per week in September,” Jerry Jordan, president of the PFT, said. “We believe that it’s really important for children to have the in-person instruction.”
School principals are excited to reconnect with students up close and personally as many teachers say hybrid learning is not sustainable.MORE NEWS: Police: 2 Teens In Car Shot At Red Light In Philadelphia's Olney Neighborhood
The school district says they will not be offering an all virtual option for most students, but those students who are in need of that mode of learning will be provided that option.