News and Commentary

Philadelphia Teacher Union President ‘Disgusted’ That Schools Are Reopening

“Quite frankly I am disgusted that the District would continue forward with a path towards reopening buildings."
Exterior of Philadelphia High School during the VH1 Save The Music Foundation Toyota Giving Assembly at Philadelphia High School on February 13, 2019 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Lisa Lake/Getty Images for Toyota

A Philadelphia teacher union told members not to report to work on Monday as the School District of Philadelphia gears up to reopen its doors to students. 

The Philadelphia Federation of Teachers (PFT) president told teachers to stay home, citing the coronavirus pandemic and alleged inadequate safety measures. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the district was expecting 2,000 preschool through second-grade teachers to return to work on Monday in advance of its Feb. 22 reopening date. 

PFT President Jerry Jordan said in a statement that he was “disgusted” with the school district for planning to reopen schools. 

“School buildings are scheduled to reopen on Monday, and I am unable to assure their safety for reoccupancy,” Jordan said. “Quite frankly I am disgusted that the District would continue forward with a path towards reopening buildings that again puts my dedicated members in harm’s way, and in just a few short weeks, will put Philadelphia’s children in harm’s way.”

In a separate statement, Jordan suggested the novel coronavirus is “deadly” to students. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), children are less likely to be infected by the coronavirus and are less likely to develop a severe illness as well. 

“I don’t need to convince anyone that COVID-19 is deadly,” Jordan said. “And I cannot recommend to anyone that the buildings are safe based on the information that we have right now.”

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the district’s Chief Talent Officer Larisa Shambaugh emailed teachers telling them they may be subject to disciplinary action if they do not return to work on Monday. 

The district has spent $4 million on ventilation updates, including the purchase of window fans for 1,100 classrooms. The state has also prioritized teachers in its ongoing vaccination efforts. Superintendent William Hite Jr. made clear that the return to classroom learning is not conditional on teacher vaccination, though he has advocated for strategies to inoculate as many teachers as possible.  

Members of the Philadelphia city council also put out a statement calling on schools to remain closed. The city councilors argued that schools must be newly-renovated to reopen.

“We know the shameful conditions children have long been expected to endure – from overcrowded classrooms and cafeterias to flooded bathrooms, stifling temperatures and flaking ceilings. This is what our children endured pre-pandemic and why we have called for a massive investment to modernize and improve our public school buildings,” the statement reads

Other large school districts across the country are refusing to return to in-person learning as well. The Chicago Teachers Union threatened to strike after the Mayor ordered teachers back to their classrooms. 

The Daily Wire reported: 

Chicago’s Mayor Lori Lightfoot has ordered Chicago’s public school teachers to return to classroom learning this week, ending the school district’s month-long virtual learning system, but the Chicago Teachers UNion say that, if they are forced to return to work, they will call a strike, even though they are currently bound by a contract and such a strike would likely be illegal. 

In an effort to get students and teachers back to the classroom, Lightfoot and the Chicago Public School district threatened to lock teachers out from remote learning. Shortly after the threats, Lightfoot reversed course

RELATED: Chicago Mayor Bends Knee to Teacher Union, Allows Remote Learning After Threat of Strike

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