Brooks and Fiedler Demand Accountability in Response to District’s Mishandling of Flood Response
Councilmember Brooks and Representative Fiedler issued the following statement on the School District of Philadelphia’s decision not to notify families until 8:40 a.m. that schools would be delayed by two hours.
“The events this morning were not a trivial matter. As elected officials, and as parents and grandparents of Philadelphia public school students, we were extremely frustrated and disappointed at the District's mishandling of this morning's two-hour delay of school openings in response to widespread flooding. Like caregivers across the District, we received a notification at 8:40 a.m. that schools would be delayed by two hours. Start times vary across the district, with some starting at 7:30 a.m. or 8:30 a.m., and others at 9 a.m. This notification came not only after many schools had already started, but after many families had dropped their children off at school and gone to work. This flagrant disregard for caregivers — many of whom are already juggling multiple schedules, school start-times, and jobs — unnecessarily threw so many lives into further chaos during an already difficult time.
“This last-minute decision made by the District is just one example of a pattern of disrespect for our school communities, poor planning, and poor communication with families across the city. This gross mishandling of a natural disaster comes on the heels of the District’s attempt to send students back into SLA Beeber, where active asbestos remediation efforts posed serious health risks to children and active construction would have required students to use portable, outdoor toilets. While SLA Beeber families organized and won a plan for a safe school reopening, schools across the city continue to struggle against deplorable, dangerous building conditions.
“This is not an easy time to be a child, a teenager, a parent or a grandparent. We’ve seen the fear in our kids’ faces as they grapple with the looming threat of COVID-19 outbreaks among their classmates, the deep loneliness of missed birthday parties and playdates, and the anxiety as they come of age into an uncertain, unstable future. As extreme weather events devastate Philadelphia neighborhoods with increasing frequency, the task of reassuring our children that they will be kept safe and healthy has become even more difficult. There are no easy answers or assurances to give for those growing up during a pandemic. And for those growing up in poor, working class and communities of color, the devastation wrought by these disasters is even more dire.
“The District and Dr. William Hite’s failure of leadership requires action on multiple levels. This problem is larger than any single employee. It is clear that in the immediate future, the District needs to change its culture and recalibrate its priorities. We demand open communication with Philadelphia students and families, prioritization of the concerns and needs of school staff, and transparency regarding the challenges our schools are facing. Our students are traumatized. Our teachers and school staff are traumatized. This is the third school year that our communities are navigating a pandemic. It is therefore essential that the District do a better job of prioritizing the stability, safety, and well-being of our students as they manage COVID-19 mitigation, building safety, and disaster response.”