Philadelphia schools share how they are tackling a third pandemic year

PHILADELPHIA, Aug. 11 – Reopening Philadelphia’s schools was the focus of a tour and roundtable of the House Democratic Policy Committee hosted by state Rep. Mary Isaacson, D-Phila., on Wednesday.

Philadelphia School District Chief Information Officer Melanie Harris led the tour of Kensington Health Sciences followed by a roundtable with legislators to discuss the challenges faced this year and beyond.

“Over the last 18 months, we have invested in solutions for students to safely learn virtually from home, and now, with COVID-19 still very much with us and variants on the rise, we are asking school districts — not just in Philadelphia but across the Commonwealth — to create the answers for how our students can safely return to schools and keep them open," Isaacson said. "This is a question that we've never had to answer, one that the CDC is constantly revising as the virus mutates. Today, we heard concerns and sought answers as to how our students will return to classrooms and be provided a quality education in a structured, safe and welcoming classroom when so much is uncertain and ever-changing. Much needs to be done to help our schools navigate these uncharted waters or our children and the next generation are the ones who will be lost.”

“The flexibility and resilience of the Philadelphia School District has been impressive,” said Policy Chairman Ryan Bizzarro. “From the administrators to the teaching staff to the custodial staff, they made sure that student needs were met, and they are continuing the conversation with parents to meet those needs.”

Members who attended the hearing learned how the phased reopening and the decisions of independent charter schools affected learning for students including hundreds of students with special needs. More than 400 students have opted to repeat the school year due to legislation passed earlier this year giving parents and students that discretion.

Information about this and other House Democratic Policy Committee hearings can be found at