As we consider how to safely reopen school buildings, it is imperative that our efforts reflect the non-negotiable needs of Philadelphia’s schoolchildren and educators.
The PFT today released its reopening guidance which is rooted in the need to protect students and staff from this deadly virus. The stakes are too high if we don’t get this right.
Since the closure of school buildings, PFT members have completed 17,000 surveys regarding remote learning and reopening models. The most favored model for reopening is a hybrid model, where students would come into buildings part time in shifts. However, recent national surges in COVID cases and plateauing local cases, combined with new evidence of childhood infection and airborne spread, certainly call the feasibility of this into question.
Educators want to be back in buildings doing the job they love — if it is, and remains, safe. Remote learning simply does not meet the needs of many of our students, and is particularly challenging for students with special needs, English learners, and young students. We must do all we can to ensure that vulnerable students receive the services they need to thrive.
But we cannot reopen buildings on a wing and a prayer.
To reopen safely, these are just a few of the critical steps that must take place:
The recent reopening rhetoric from Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos is morally bankrupt. The President’s threat to withhold aid to schools if they fail to adopt his all caps reopen-by-Tweet mandate reminds me of a devastating example of the life-threatening consequences of underfunded schools. In a 2013 political temper tantrum, then-Governor Corbett threatened to withhold $45 million dollars from our schools. He only released the funds after Bryant Elementary sixth grader Laporshia Massey died after suffering an asthma attack at school with no nurse present due to Corbett’s budget cuts. When society fails to fund education and to ignore health and safety, we are perpetuating the centuries of racism against Black and Brown people.
Our plan is based on science, and it’s based on an unwavering commitment to our young people and educators. Without implementing these components and others outlined in our plan, we jeopardize the lives of our young people and their educators, and it’s not something that our union will allow.