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October 14, 2020

Philly schools offering hybrid learning model to students interested in returning

New plan allows others to continue receiving online instruction as the COVID-19 pandemic plays out

Education Schools
Philadelphia hybrid learning model Thom Carroll/For PhillyVoice

The School District of Philadelphia plans to allow students to return to the classroom in the coming months – if they so choose. Students can elect to continue receiving online-only instruction.

Philadelphia students who are eager for in-person instruction could be back in the classroom within the next few months. 

The School District of Philadelphia plans to begin methodically implementing a hybrid learning model in late November, Superintendent William Hite announced Wednesday. The model include two days of in-person instruction and three days of remote learning each week. 

The hybrid model is not mandatory. Students can continue online-only instruction if they prefer. 

Families will be able to opt into the hybrid model from Monday, Oct. 26 through 5 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 30. If a selection is not made during that time, the student will automatically be assigned to remote instruction. 

"In-person learning opportunities will better meet the increasing needs of our students, especially our youngest learners and those with complex needs — and it’s the right thing to do," Hite said. "I know that together we can rise to meet these challenges, just as we’ve done with every challenge we’ve faced since the COVID-19 pandemic began."

Though the district plans for some in-person instruction to resume next month, officials warned that several factors could impact that timeline. That includes approval from the city's health department, staffing levels, capacity constraints and the coronavirus transmission rate in the city. 

The hybrid model will be rolled out in phases, which district officials said will allow them to monitor schools' health and safety practices and ensure COVID-19 conditions support in-person learning. 

A phased return to school

The first group of students will include those in Pre-Kindergarten through second grade. They tentatively will return Monday, Nov. 30 – the first day of class after Thanksgiving. 

The second phase will bring back students in grades 3 to 12 with physical disabilities, sensory impairments, severe medical conditions and significant learning disabilities. Those students will return in January. 

The third phase, comprising ninth graders and students enrolled in career and technical education programs, does not have a targeted return date. 

The order and timing for additional students to return will be determined based on the conditions of the public health crisis. 

Students who choose the hybrid instruction model will attend school on a staggered schedule to limit the number of people in buildings each day.

One group of students will head to school on Mondays and Tuesdays and have remote learning the rest of the week. A second group will have in-person instruction on Thursdays and Fridays and online learning the first three days of the week. 

Schools that cannot implement a hybrid model due to building capacity constraints, staffing needs or other challenges will need to implement an alternative model that better supports student safety.

The district aims to keep all students with their current teachers regardless of whether they opt for the hybrid instruction model. The district has invested $6 million in new technology so teachers can livestream lessons from their classrooms, thereby teaching students all students at the same time.

Some teachers may not be able to safely teach in person due to the pandemic. Classes that are impacted by such circumstances will be assigned a different teacher.

Health and safety guidelines 

The school district also has implemented a number of COVID-19 health and safety guidelines that schools must follow when in-person learning resumes.

Students and teachers will be required to self-screen themselves for COVID-19 symptoms, take their temperatures every morning, stay home if not feeling well, and wear face masks at all times.

School buildings will be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected at the end of each academic day. Single entry and exit points, one-way traffic in hallways, and touch-free hand sanitizer stations will be implemented.

Desks and chairs will be kept 6 feet apart and doors will be kept open in order to maintain proper air ventilation. 

Students initially will be required to eat breakfast and lunch in their classrooms. They will receive grab-and-go meals for their remote learning days on the last day of in-person instruction each week. 

Once students are permitted to eat in the cafeteria, tables and chairs will be kept 6 feet apart. 

Signage will be posted throughout school to remind students and teachers to follow the COVID-19 health and safety guidelines.

If a classroom or school needs to temporarily close due to a COVID-19 outbreak, students will shift immediately to online-only learning until it is deemed safe to resume in-person instruction.

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