Dr. William R. Hite, Superintendent of the School District of Philadelphia

by Sue Ann Rybak

Dr. William R. Hite, Superintendent of the School District of Philadelphia, appeared on Facebook Live on April 23 to report on the coming transition of the school district’s instructional year, which will begin officially on May 4 and end on June 12.

Hite said “teacher-led digital learning” began on Monday, April 20 and that teachers would spend the two-week period before May 4 to “focus on review and enrichment with their students.”

Hite also said the district will shift from four marking periods to three.

“Students may receive grades from new assignments, missed assignments or make-up assignments on or after May 4,” he said. “Students’ final grades will be an average of the three marking periods. So, we are holding the marking period open until the end of the school year.

Hite said the district had launched a digital learning web page at www.philasd.org/digitallearning, so parents can help support their children’s learning at home.

It contains early childhood tool kits for Pre-K plus lesson plans for all subject materials for Kindergarten through 12th grade. New materials will be added to the website every week.

“There are also activities for career education, visual and performing arts and world languages plus resources for social and emotional development,” he said.

He said the school district’s digital learning plan would require a Chromebook or other learning device plus the internet. Hite said the district launched two technology centers: Educational Center on the First Floor Lobby of the School District of Philadelphia, 440 N. Broad St. and Fitzpatrick Annex Building (4101 Chalfont Drive, in the back of Fitzpatrick Elementary School). Both sites will be open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Loaner Chromebooks are still available for pick up at one of these sites.

“You must be a K-12 student enrolled in a School District of Philadelphia School to receive a loaner Chromebook,” he said.

Hite added that students could use a tablet or iPad for digital learning as long as the device has Google classroom, access to a microphone, a camera, and a keyboard. High School students coming to pick up Chromebooks should bring their official school I.D. badge. Parents or guardians of students picking up Chromebooks should bring I.D. The district also recommends bringing the child’s student I.D. number, although it is not necessary.

If the Chromebook you were issued is broken or if you need support on how to use, call the Chromebook phone support line at 215-400-4444 or email familytechsupport@philasd.org.

Access to the Internet

Hite dispelled rumors that the district wanted students to use free parking lot WiFi.

“We do not want our children going to parking lots to get free WiFi,” he said. “There was some reporting that children use free parking lot WiFi. On our website, we listed all of the affordable internet programs that are available for families to use, and we listed all available free WiFi spots, including parking lots. We did not say we endorsed any of those. In fact, on our website, it said we do not endorse any of these structures. So, there is absolutely no confusion; we removed that as an option. If you hear people saying the district wants you to go to a parking lot, that is not true; we were just trying to give as much information as possible.

“We will be providing mobile hot spots to our families who are the most in need,” Hite said. “Many of our families, who are in shelters …do not have all the other options available for a variety of reasons. That will be done on a case by case basis.”

Graduation and Proms

The district announced that there would be no proms or graduation ceremonies in May or June. Hite said the district is exploring opportunities to acknowledge the high school graduates.

“We know that they [graduation ceremonies] are a significant part of the graduates’ experience,” he said. “We are actively exploring virtual celebrations both in July and August. None the less, we want to provide a more traditional graduation experience whenever the COVID-19 ends, and that includes when it’s safe to do so.”

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