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Philadelphia scraps plans to reopen schools this month. City's 120,000 students will stay home indefinitely.


The teachers' union called it a 'big victory'

Philadelphia School Superintendent Dr. William Hite (Photo by Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Philadelphia's public schools had planned to reopen to some grades at the end of November, but now the city is scrapping that plan and keeping its schools shuttered indefinitely, leaving 120,000 students stuck with virtual instruction.

What's that now?

School Superintendent William Hite Jr. announced Tuesday that he made the decision to continue virtual education "to help safeguard the health and well-being of our staff, students, and school communities" as COVID-19 cases continue to rise in the city and across the U.S., the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

The city's teachers' union praised Hite's announcement as a "big victory," the paper said. The Philadelphia Federation of Teachers had opposed returning to schools during the current spike in cases.

The city initially planned to bring back pre-K through second-grade students for in-person instruction starting Nov. 30. The teachers for those grades were scheduled to return to their classrooms Monday.

Hite claimed he wanted students to return to school as soon as possible, but now the 32,000 students who would have been eligible to return to school at the end of the month don't know when they'll eventually get back into the classroom.

And with this announcement, the 120,000 students in the city's public schools will have to stay home indefinitely, the Inquirer said, noting that the school district "hopes" it will be able to return to in-person instruction someday.

The superintendent said he knew the decision was "disappointing for many families and many students" and lamented that the lack of school time had a disproportionate impact on kids in poverty who do not live in conditions where learning can happen.

According to the paper, the district has "no timetable" for when students will be able to return to school — if ever.

Philadelphia's health commissioner, Thomas Fraley, said be backed Hite's call, saying, "There's no question we are in a dangerous period."

PFT President Jerry Jordan celebrated the decision, saying in a statement, "The decision to remain fully virtual for the foreseeable future will save lives. The science of COVID-19, paired with the massive ventilation and other facilities issues throughout the District, makes it clear: Returning to school buildings, in any capacity, is unsafe right now," the Inquirer reported.

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