The Philadelphia School District, which was closed yesterday for staff training, is bracing for "a dramatic effect on attendance" as the SEPTA strike enters its second day.
The effect is expected to be especially pronounced at the 18 secondary magnet schools, which draw students citywide, spokesman Fernando Gallard said. When SEPTA workers struck in 2005, the magnets saw a 25 percent drop in attendance the first day.
The 161,500-student district will open on time today, although officials could not say how many students they expected to be able to get to the 265 schools on schedule. All extracurricular activities will continue.
The district is preparing learning packets to be available online and at regional offices if the strike goes into next week, Gallard said.
About 58,000 city students, including those from charter, parochial and private schools, use SEPTA, he said. Of the total, 35,150 are district students, 11,714 charter, and 11,695 parochial or private.
Many city charter schools, which were open yesterday, saw attendance plummet, giving a glimpse of what district schools may face today.
"It's a major hit. Our students come from 55 different zip codes, and the majority of them rely on SEPTA," said Peter Kountz, head of the Charter School for Architecture and Design, 105 S. Seventh St.
Only 175 of its 580 students showed up; attendance usually is 98 percent, Kountz said.
Special bus services
The school will remain open, he said, and educators will provide makeup work for those who need it.
At least one school, Hope Charter, 2116 E. Haines St., closed yesterday because of the strike, its answering machine said. It planned to open today.
At Truebright Science Academy Charter, 926 W. Allegheny Ave., classes that usually average 25 students had about seven, said Jamaica Yancy, a receptionist. Some students, however, were out for a field trip, she noted.
Some charters are planning to offer special bus services. Mastery Charter's Lenfest Campus, where attendance was 70 percent yesterday, down from a norm of 95 percent, has contracted with six buses to transport students if the strike lasts into tomorrow. About 510 students attend the campus, at 35 S. Fourth St.
At the city's archdiocesan high schools, with about 8,500 students, attendance was not as heavily affected. These schools averaged 80 percent attendance, spokesman Kevin Mulligan said. During this flu season, attendance has fluctuated between 75 and 90 percent, he said.
More students walked longer distances and more were late for class at West Catholic High School, said Brother Patrick Cassidy, assistant principal for academics.
He said he was hoping for better attendance today than yesterday's 81.7 percent, especially since the school will end its quarter this week, and tests are scheduled and projects due.
School officials said they would try to help students who cannot get to class. Philadelphia district students will be marked absent, but it will be an excused absence if a note is provided.
The district will provide safe places for students to store bicycles if they choose to ride to school, she said.
The district's yellow buses will continue running for the 37,153 students who usually use them. But the buses will not transport additional students.
Colleges also were making arrangements to cope. For one, Temple University, many of whose students rely on mass transit, has set up a shuttle service between its Center City and North Philadelphia campuses.