Philadelphia School District’s All-Virtual Reopening Plan To ‘Tax Everybody,’ COVID-19 Concerns Made Hybrid Model ‘Impossible’

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The Philadelphia school system is preparing for a fall semester like no other due to the coronavirus pandemic. Now that instruction will be all online, how will all the students get access to their schoolwork?

In the unprecedented times of a pandemic, the School District of Philadelphia will soon begin the massive task of providing an all-online education for its students through the first quarter.

“It’s going to be a challenge, it’s going to tax everybody,” School Board President Joyce Wilkerson said.

Eyewitness News spoke with Wilkerson on the heels of the board’s 7-1 vote to approve the all-virtual school reopening plan, which was a revision from the hybrid model first suggested with two days a week in-class settings.

“There’s a lot of angst, there’s fear out there. I just thought that the overall environment was going to make it impossible to launch the hybrid model,” Wilkerson said.

The challenge facing the district and its nearly 125,000 students is providing adequate internet access to make sure all children have an equal opportunity to learn.

“The push is going on nationally to get the federal government to do more,” Wilkerson said. “We’re pressing on Gov. Wolf to make some of the emergency COVID money available, Philadelphia didn’t get its fair share. The connectivity will be one of the things we’ll be trying to finance.”

School officials admit the online plan doesn’t come without its flaws.

“I think the trade-off is substantial,” Wilkerson said. “I worry a lot about kids who are at risk and whose parents have jobs because they’re frontline people. Young kids who will be home alone and expect them to be able to log in and participate successfully in a virtual environment is something that I think is going to be highly improbable.”

The district is urging community organizations, even churches, to step up and provide safe learning environments when needed.

“We’re a community and if we pull together and show some patience, we have a chance of getting through this,” Wilkerson said.

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