PCCY has fought side by side with students, parents, teachers, and administrators for the funding to address decades of deterioration in our schools and demand fair school funding to outfit every school and classroom with well-paid teachers, modern supplies, and healthy building materials. We continue to make this case to lawmakers across the state every day.
The recent acknowledgment by District leadership that re-opening can be a school-by-school decision aligns with our strong belief that teachers must have confidence that their own school is safe enough with respect to COVID. When they do, our parents will get the signal from teachers, whom they trust the most, that it’s safe for their children to return as well.
It goes without saying that teachers are not ventilation experts, nor should they be the sole persons responsible to assess the readiness of our schools. We believe that teachers have important judgment and perspective to add and a role to play in deciding where it’s COVID-safe for teachers and students to return to in-person instruction.
To be sure, PCCY calls for school personnel to move to the front of the line for the vaccine and we call for transparent communication by the District about teacher and student safety and for them to listen to the concerns of teachers.
Yesterday PCCY proudly announced 20 Picasso Project grants to Philadelphia school teachers who, together with “teaching artists,” will take their remote teaching to the next level integrating creative, arts-based teaching methods into their regular curriculum. This is our 18th year of raising funds and following the lead of teachers who use arts education to enhance their instruction and tap into students’ creativity to build critical thinking skills, instill a sense of agency, and deepen knowledge retention.
What drives our commitment to the Picasso Project is knowing that one size does not fit all when it comes to schools, classes, teachers, or students. Customization is possible because our grants empower teachers to lead the project and deliver successful results. We don’t tell teachers what to do, they tell us what makes sense.
We also believe that one size does not fit all when it comes to young students returning to in-person learning either. Where a classroom or school is ready, our young children need to return. Where more preparation needs to be done, those students need to continue learning remotely because the threat of COVID is real.
Just as we do with the Picasso Project, we stand behind the judgment of individual teachers. We know they must have a say regarding the safety of their classrooms and schools related to COVID for kindergarten to 2nd grade hybrid instruction.
Here’s why. Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Kristen Graham yesterday tweeted an image of a classroom with new safety protocols. In response, an SDP teacher tweeted, “My school definitely does not look like this! No shields on desk!” with a photo. This is why teachers should see their classrooms for themselves, and then alert the District with their specific classroom or school building concerns.
We all know that our youngest students are falling behind. Given the lifetime of consequences of losing so much learning at such a young age, returning to in-person instruction in whatever modified form is incredibly important.
P.S. Superintendent Hite says parents and members of the public will be able to tour schools so they can see the conditions for themselves. And the the CDC released this Walk Thru Guide today.