PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The School District of Philadelphia hopes to get children back to class in the fall as President Donald Trump has called for, but the superintendent says he’ll rely on advice from health experts. The school district is expected to release more on its plans next week.
The Philadelphia School District is still strategizing ways of getting hundreds of thousands of students back to school safely in the fall.
“We’re working with the health commissioner of the city,” Superintendent Dr. William Hite said, “and also we have a medical doctor on staff that is directing that effort as well. Families want children back in school, but we have a responsibility to ensure that children, staff members, and all else who work in their schools are safe. So, safety and science will guide our decisions.”
Hite says the district will be unveiling final reopening plans next week following CDC guidelines as well as guidance from state and local health officials.
“We will, however, be masking, we will, however, be social distancing,” Hite said. “We will be sanitizing and promoting handwashing and making sure stations are available to be able to do those things.”
The district will also have to tackle the monumental task of cleaning schools thoroughly and upgrading ventilation.
Officials say the reopening phase will likely be staggered with some students brought back into the classroom while others will continue to learn virtually.
“We’re going to start with children in those vulnerable communities,” Hite said, “and in the vulnerable categories that have missed a lot of time from school.”
There’s mounting pressure on schools around the country to reopen in the fall with Trump threatening to withhold federal funding from schools not opening.
Philadelphia officials stand firmly in their decision to proceed with extreme caution in the midst of an ongoing pandemic.
“I’m just not influenced by someone saying they’re going to cut off funding that they don’t control,” Hite said, “that only represents 10% of our budget if, in fact, we don’t bring all children back in the fall.”
Hite plans to outline the district’s reopening on July 15.