COVID cases force the private Philadelphia School to switch to remote learning

The Philadelphia School (Google maps)

The Philadelphia School (Google maps)

The Philadelphia School, a private pre-K to eighth grade school in Center City, will switch to remote learning next week after eight cases of COVID-19 there were confirmed.

“TPS’ priority remains the health and safety of our students, faculty, staff and their families,” Melissa Grimm, a spokesperson for the school, said in a statement issued Friday. “This period of remote learning will allow time for contact tracing, potentially affected individuals to be tested and quarantined as needed, and the school to review safety protocols so in-person learning can resume.“

Grimm would not offer specifics about where the cases were concentrated. But in a letter to families, head of school Lisa Sun said school administrators had been informed of three “additional” confirmed cases in fifth-grade cohorts. The letter did not state how many students were initially found to be infected. The letter also went on to say that remote learning would take place until at least Oct. 27.

The decision at the school, which has an enrollment of 423 and tuition rates up to about $30,000, comes days after the School District of Philadelphia announced plans to begin in-person classes for public school students in pre-K and second grade starting on Nov. 30.

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School district officials said that things could change if cases of COVID-19 keep rising — as they have across Pennsylvania in recent weeks — but that the plan was to offer a hybrid option for students in the lower grades after the Thanksgiving break. This hybrid option would allow students to attend classes in-person twice a week. Families would not, however, be compelled to send their students to school. A virtual option will remain.

If the first phase of the reopening plan goes well, the district would welcome back students with complex special needs on Jan. 9, according to a letter Superintendent William Hite sent to staff. Hite’s letter also noted that ninth-grade students and students attending career and technical programs could return to buildings “later in January.”

“In-person learning opportunities will better meet the increasing needs of our students and families — and it’s the right thing to do,” Hite said in the letter. “But resuming in-person learning safely will challenge all of us in new ways.” The superintendent did not say in his letter to staff when the bulk of students in grades 3-8 and 10-12 might have the option of in-person classes.

Preliminary studies suggest younger children are significantly less likely to fall ill from COVID-19 and also less likely to spread the virus. Early evidence from states that did open schools this fall indicates that the virus does not tend to spread within school buildings.

The World Health Organization says there have been few documented outbreaks within schools, suggesting that the “spread of COVID-19 within educational settings may be limited.” The WHO cautions, however, that scientists aren’t yet sure about the role of children in COVID-19 transmission.

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