LOCAL ELECTED OFFICIALS CALL TO DELAY SCHOOL REOPENING AND STRENGTHEN PLAN IN COLLABORATION WITH SCHOOL COMMUNITIES

In Council News, Helen Gym, Jamie Gauthier, Kendra Brooks, News by PHL Council

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PHILADELPHIA—Today, City Councilmembers Helen Gym (At-Large), Kendra Brooks (At-Large), Jamie Gauthier (3rd District), Derek Green (At-Large), State Representatives Rick Krajewski (188th District) and Chris Rabb (200th District) issued the following statement calling for a delay in the reopening of Philadelphia’s public schools:

“Over the past few weeks, our offices have received hundreds of calls and thousands of emails from angry and fearful parents and educators who have legitimate concerns about our ability to keep children and staff safe in schools. We have visited schools as they prepare to re-open in a few days. We know the shameful conditions children have long been expected to endure – from overcrowded classrooms and cafeterias to flooded bathrooms, stifling temperatures and flaking ceilings. This is what our children endured pre-pandemic and why we have called for a massive investment to modernize and improve our public school buildings.

“Moreover, we know our families. Many of our students live in intergenerational households with medically fragile family members. Many of our staff members are caregivers to their own children and parents. The consequences of not getting school re-opening right will be borne by vulnerable communities. They will be borne in Black and Brown neighborhoods already disproportionately impacted by COVID, by vulnerable families with chronically sick or disabled loved ones, by immigrant families terrified to access medical treatment.

“None of us takes the decision to open schools or keep them virtual lightly. We recognize that there is no substitute for in-person learning. We are fully invested in a safe and responsible re-opening of school that earns the public trust and establishes clear standards for facility maintenance as well as testing and health protocols.

“But as the District prepares for its third attempt at reopening, we are troubled that for months, we have heard complaints from hundreds of parents, school staff, principals and community members about the lack of communication and clarity regarding air quality standards, testing protocols, improvements in virtual learning, and more. One in four elementary schools has no functioning mechanical ventilation system. These conditions are appalling pre-COVID. Amid a deadly pandemic, it is unacceptable.

“It is the District’s responsibility to deliver a school re-opening plan supported by the children families and staff that the District serves. At this stage, it is clear this threshold has not been met. Thus, the District should delay any school re-opening at this time.

“On February 17, City Council’s Committees on Children and Youth and Education will be holding a joint hearing on school re-opening and setting out priorities for the path ahead. We look forward to engaging with and hearing from the District, school board, and the school communities we serve.”

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