If a SEPTA strike halts city buses, trolleys, and subways, Philadelphia School District schools will still open, officials said Thursday.
Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. had raised the idea of schools possibly operating remotely if a strike occurs — many of the system’s 120,000 students and 20,000 workers rely on SEPTA — but ultimately made the call to keep buildings open.
“Attending school in-person provides our young people with the familiar routines, sense of community and support services that they need for their social, emotional and academic well-being,” Hite wrote in a letter to staff. “Now more than ever, schools are safe havens for thousands of students who are experiencing the very real impacts of increasing gun violence and other traumas impacting our communities.”
Staff will be expected to report to work as usual; students are expected to be inside classrooms. Children who can’t make it to school will be asked to log on to their district-provided devices daily for asynchronous assignments.
“Hybrid learning will not be offered, and students will not be able to log into their classes virtually,” the superintendent said.
Hite, in the letter, encouraged employees to carpool and asked school principals to “plan for additional parking in school lots and around the school perimeter whenever possible.”
Officials have reached out to the Philadelphia Parking Authority to ask if they may get temporary parking permits at schools where parking is a challenge.
“Right now, the response to that request was no,” Hite said.
Though the district is expecting workers to find a way to make it to school, officials acknowledged some may have to call out.
“Plans are underway to monitor staffing at each school daily and to deploy educator and central office staffing supports for specific schools that may need additional coverage,” Hite said. “Schools receiving additional staffing support will receive communication directly from the Office of Schools.”
And the superintendent, at a school board meeting Thursday evening, said if a strike stretches on and staffing levels are low, the district might have to pivot.
But, Hite said, “we want to start with bringing all young people to schools on a daily basis as our approach, and then determine if we will be able to sustain it.”
Whether SEPTA will strike remains up in the air. The transportation authority’s largest labor union voted to authorize a strike at 12:01 a.m. Monday if an agreement is not reached.
The district has been making contingency plans for a SEPTA strike for weeks. Should a SEPTA strike happen, families who can’t get their children to school will be able to pick up grab-and-go meals from one of 12 sites across the city.