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Almost 50 Schools in Philadelphia Shut-Down Amid COVID Surge and Staffing Shortages

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Chalkbeat Staff, Chalkbeat

At least 46 Philadelphia schools won’t reopen for in-person learning next week due to staffing shortages, Superintendent William Hite announced Friday evening.

The number of schools offering only virtual instruction could grow, Hite warned, as the district monitors over the weekend how school staff have been impacted by the omicron surge.

​​”Some schools that were virtual this week could remain virtual or shift to in person next week, and those that were in person this week could remain in person or need to shift to virtual,” Hite said in a message to teachers and families. “We know these uncertainties are challenging, and ask that our families prepare for either possibility.”

Last week, 92 district schools operated virtually, and the district took the unusual step of having a snow day Friday.

Friday’s announcement comes amid skyrocketing COVID cases and hospitalizations. Nearly 30,000 Philadelphia residents were diagnosed over the past two weeks, and the city is seeing an average of 3,108 cases a day — the highest in the pandemic, according to the city health commissioner.

Officials said another update will be provided by 4 p.m. Sunday.

Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, or CHOP, and the city’s health department put out new K-12 guidance this week that calls for in-person learning during the current surge that has caused staffing shortages across the district.

The new guidance advises students and staff who test positive to be allowed to return to school five days after symptoms occur, if their symptoms disappear or are resolving, rather than the prior 10-day quarantine recommendation. Testing of asymptomatic students will end. Universal masking in schools will remain. Ten percent of a school’s staff and students now must test positive for a school to close, up from 3%.

In addition to the 46 schools, there are nine Opportunity Network schools that will continue to go virtual next week.

Chalkbeat is a nonprofit news site covering educational change in public schools.