October 14, 2020
PHILADELPHIA— Today, following the District’s release of its proposed reopening plan, PFT President Jerry Jordan issued the following statement:
“First and foremost, any reopening plan will be contingent upon health and safety. Period. Any efforts to reopen school buildings without meeting a stringent set of safety criteria will not pass muster, and will be unacceptable. That is why our Union has taken a leading role in developing, identifying, and proposing what criteria must be met in order to reopen buildings. We issued our recommendations in July and have been negotiating with the District regarding the health and safety protocol since then.
“We have yet to see any evidence that schools will be ready to open in any capacity on the proposed dates, but we also recognize that the goal is, of course, for students to return to in person learning. Virtual learning is far from ideal for any learner or educator. But lives are at stake.
“The concept of a phased reopening is absolutely appropriate, because we know that the District will be limited in its ability to bring back large groups of learners at once primarily due to years of deferred maintenance, ventilation issues, and other hazards.
“Our reopening criteria are also based on recalculating occupancy standards based on social distancing of at least 6 feet per occupant. Further, ventilation issues abound throughout the District, which is why air flow rates, which we have not yet seen, are a critical component of determining reoccupancy capacity.
“As such, at schools like Lincoln High School, Northeast High School, and Hopkinson Elementary, special consideration will need to be made as the buildings are significantly over-crowded as it is. Or consider Barton Elementary, a large school serving only K-2 students– clearly, special consideration will need to be made there, as the first group slated to return are the PreK-2 students.
“Regarding the nuts and bolts of the academic components of the plan, my team has been in meetings with the Office of Academics and has worked to offer insight on the academic components of the plan and ensure that our members are best equipped to serve the children. I commend the team at the Office of Academics for their diligence in this process, and we are committed to continuing to work with Dr. Savoy-Brooks and her team to ensure that the voices and input of Philadelphia’s educators are part of the plan development process.
“But make no mistake: there can be no return to in person learning without strict adherence to health and safety protocol. With PreK-2 staff scheduled to return on November 9th, these requirements will need to be met before then. The lives of the students, educators, and staff of the District must, and will, take priority.”