PFT President Jerry Jordan on New PDPH Guidance

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January 19, 2022

PHILADELPHIA—"While we continue sound the alarm about the untenable conditions in our buildings, Philadelphia's officials continue to recommend policies misaligned with the reality of the in-school experiences. 

"Since the start of the pandemic, and certainly now, this union has worked to ensure that students and staff are able to learn and work in-person. We know that the true magic of teaching and learning takes place face-to-face, and virtual learning simply cannot replicate that joy or effectiveness. We also know that every child and staff member deserves to be safe in their school building. 

"Last week, I shared our concerns with the newly issued CHOP and PDPH guidanceIt is particularly alarming to learn that again, PDPH has realigned their guidance not based on science, but to keep school buildings open with no concern for school communities. Today's guidance, which indicates the removal of any threshold to trigger a building closure is another shifting goalpost that leaves our students and staff vulnerable. It was troubling to read that PDPH stated that the shift was simply a result of COVID being 'so widespread.'

"While case counts have declined in Philadelphia over the past week, PDPH reported a 60% surge in deaths between December and January. It is alarming that amidst this surge, during which Dr. Bettigole acknowledges 'we will lose more residents this month and possibly into February than we have over the last six months,' that we continue to strip away the existing safeguards in our schools.

"School communities are continuing to share the inadequacies of the current safety plan. Since the return from winter break, in repeated daily surveys of building representatives, well over 90% of schools responding reported significant staffing shortages affecting their buildings. Further, dozens of schools reported inadequate or missing PPE, and well over half of schools report missing COVID testing supplies. Layered with the fact that far too many of our schools are without school nurses, I reiterate that the current situation is untenable. 

"Once again, I call on the Mayor, the Superintendent, and the School Board to implement a true and jointly developed safety plan that moves us all towards our collective goal of a safe in-person learning experience for all students and staff."

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PFT Building Representatives on the need for an adequate safety plan:

Our five point demands remain the following:

  1. PAUSE: A pause on in-person learning to adequately implement a COVID safety plan that is jointly developed with the PFT and all stakeholders
  2. PPE: Adequate PPE including now-recommended KF94s, KN95s or N95s for all students and staff; implementation (with fidelity) of new mask protocols; adequate supplies including sanitizer and changed air purifier filters
  3. TESTING & VACCINATION: Expansion of COVID testing program to include asymptomatic students (implemented by an outside provider); Rejection of new guidance suggesting the elimination of COVID testing; Access to plentiful, unexpired testing supplies
  4. NURSES: Certified school nurses in every building, every day; supports for school nurses
  5. METRICS: Sensible metrics for district, school, and classroom/grade closures