PHILADELPHIA—Today, City Councilmember Helen Gym (At-Large) issued the following statement, applauding an initial school reopening plan and calling on the school district to invest in repairs and support staff needed to reopen all schools safely:
“I want to acknowledge the work that the Mayor’s office, the labor unions, the public and the District did to establish this initial re-opening. I especially want to thank our parents, educators, school staff, principals, and students and recognize the immense stress and burden everyone has been under in the past year. I am incredibly grateful for your service through all these profound challenges.
“Today’s announcement makes clear that a reopening of our public schools must be rooted in public trust, public engagement, and recognition of decades of underfunding and neglect of Philadelphia’s public schools. We have never recovered from the devastating budget cuts of 2013 and the austerity mentality that resulted in mass layoffs and school closures. It’s no surprise then that public opinion – especially among communities of color and vulnerable families – makes clear that communities prioritize health, cleanliness, and modernization as an essential component of education.
“It’s important to remember that even with this announcement more than 90 percent of Philadelphia school children and educators will continue to learn remotely. Our focus must be on a full school re-opening and using the federal relief dollars to prioritize continued modernization and repair of school buildings, investing in support staff particularly around trauma and mental health, and improving virtual learning.
“Our ultimate goal must be bringing our young people, school staff, and communities back to schools that are safer, healthier, and more equipped to support our young people than they were before.”