Philly teachers union says district’s back-to-school plan must prioritize safety

Mike DeNardo
July 14, 2020 - 8:00 am
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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio)  The Philadelphia School District is expected to release its back-to-school plan this week, and the teachers union wants to be sure the plan addresses members' concerns over COVID-19. The union is issuing its own back-to-school recommendations Tuesday.

Jerry Jordan, president of Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, said the health and safety of students and staff is his top priority. 

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"We really get one chance to make it right. And that's over these next few weeks. Because we cannot run the risk of gambling with anyone's health," Jordan said. 

In an interview, Jordan said teachers are concerned about whether the district will hire enough custodians to disinfect buildings. Jordan said his members are also concerned they may be required to sanitize classrooms themselves.

"We are adamant about making sure that there are enough cleaners that the district hires enough cleaners and that the soap is in the buildings, the sanitizers are in the buildings," he said.

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Jordan said the union did not help to draft the district's plan, but it did share the results of a PFT survey which showed that teachers preferred a hybrid model of one week in school, one week online.

He said teachers are also concerned about having to supervise online classes and in-person classes at the same time. 

Jordan said he's especially concerned about how the district will accommodate immunocompromised teachers who don't want to return to school buildings.

He'll be meeting with the district over the reopening plan before the start of school.

While the union and the district consider the plan, they're also talking about a separate, major issue: The union's current contract expires at the end of August.