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School District announces 2020-2021 plan

Most students will return to the classroom two days a week while wearing a mask and practicing social distancing, the plan says.


Students will return to classrooms in the fall on a rotating basis, the School District of Philadelphia announced this week.

The District’s School Year 2020-2021: Advancing Education Safety plan will mix digital and in-person learning, with most students physically learning at schools two days a week.

Most students will report to schools either Monday/Wednesday or Tuesday/Thursday, with Pre-K and complex-needs students reporting to schools Monday through Thursday. Families will also have the option to sign up for an all-virtual model. Chromebooks will continue to be available.

The District is seeking to delay the first day of school to Sept. 2.

Here are major points of the plan:

Social distancing: The plan calls for students to maintain at least 6 feet of social distance whenever possible, including following signage, decals and colored tape. Desks, chairs and other items in the classroom will be arranged in a way to promote social distancing and classrooms will have a max of 25 individuals (students, teachers and staff) at a time.

Schools will also consider using gymnasiums, auditoriums and cafeterias for learning spaces when class size cannot be reduced.

Clear physical barriers will be installed in reception areas, front offices and other areas where physical contact with the public occurs.

Face masks: All individuals are required to wear a face mask while on District grounds, the plan says.

Students and teachers Pre-K through 5 will receive face shields and masks, while students 6 through 12 will be supplied with daily face masks. Students will receive 15-minute “mask breaks” at times such as lunch and when outdoors and more than 6 feet apart from other people.

The District will provide one cloth mask to each staff member, but additional masks will only be provided to some based on their risk of exposure. Teachers 6 through 12 will not receive daily masks.

Daily health screenings: All employees will be required to complete daily self-reporting and all families will be required to conduct a daily screening of their children at home. Employees will fill out an online pre-entry screening form to ensure they are symptom-free.

Families will be required to sign an agreement to their commitment to keeping their children home when sick. Screening children includes taking temperatures and monitoring symptoms or exposure to others diagnosed with COVID-19.

Cleaning: Schools will be equipped with COVID-19 virucide and disinfecting equipment and custodial staff will be trained in daily cleaning practices, and all buildings will be cleaned and disinfected multiple times a day. “High-touch areas” will be identified and sanitized at least every four hours as part of a checklist custodial staff will complete. In addition, hand sanitizer stations will be installed at locations throughout the school buildings.

Superintendent Dr. William Hite Jr. said the extra steps and precautions could come at a cost of $80 million or more.

The plan used feedback from more than 35,000 respondents of a survey put out by the District in June.

“We have a fundamental responsibility to educate our students continually throughout the school year, and we are fully committed to doing so safely, thoughtfully and with equity and facts guiding our decision making,” Hite said.

The full plan is available on the District’s site.

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