Saturday, August 1, 2015

Early dismissal blues

So, as a former Philly public school student, I can tell you first-hand that hot weather + Philadelphia School District buildings = not a good combination. The vast majority of the district’s buildings are old and un-airconditioned, and sweltering is probably not going far enough for how they feel in this weather. Forget teaching and learning - those aren't good conditions for anyone's health.

Early dismissal blues

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So, as a former Philly public school student, I can tell you first-hand that hot weather + Philadelphia School District buildings = not a good combination.  The vast majority of the district’s buildings are old and un-airconditioned, and sweltering is probably not going far enough for how they feel in this weather.  Forget teaching and learning - those aren't good conditions for anyone's health.

After watching the sizzling weather forecast, officials made the call to dismiss schools early today, at 1:30.

But I’ve heard from a number of parents that they didn’t find out about the early dismissal until pretty late in the game - some as late as 1 p.m. or afterward, and some never actually got the official word from a school or district notification.

District spokeswoman Jamilah Fraser notified the media of the closure at about 12:15.  She said principals had already been notified and robocalls had already gone out to parents.

“I can’t notify the media until we nofify parents,” Fraser said.  “We followed proper procedures.”

She said the district tries to give parents at least an hour and a half advance warning for early dismissal — two hours or more if possible.

At the elementary school level, staff cannot leave the building if any children are left.  That’s different at the high school level.

Because predicting the weather is so tricky, district officials were in a tough spot, Fraser said.  She said they were prepared to dismiss school early Tuesday based on the weather forecast, but it never got quite hot enough to do so.  Today, it was hotter than expected, and it became necessary to do so, she said.

“It’s just kind of a game of chance,” said Fraser.

The game of chance, though, left many parents scrambling for childcare.  
Luise Moskowitz, parent of two district students, didn’t find out until 12:55 p.m., when her son used a friend’s phone to call her.

“I got no robocall,” Moskowitz said.  “My daughter’s teacher emailed the whole class, and my son, at the middle school, told me on a cell phone.  But there was nothing official at all.”

Moskowitz, who lives in Center City, works in an office some days and at home others.  

“It just so happened that I could be flexible today,” she said.  “Otherwise, I would have had to drop everything to get my kids.”

She even picked up a few other students whose parents were not able to make it — evidence, she says, that there’s some silver lining here.

“Well, at least we know we can mobilize the city in under an hour,” Moskowitz said.  “But the school district could have made it easier for us.”

Parents: when did you hear about the early dismissal?

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About this blog

Inquirer reporter Kristen Graham writes the Philly School Files blog, where she covers education in Philadelphia, both in and out of the classroom.

During the school year, you’ll frequently find her hosting live chats about the district on Philly.com.

Please do pass along the scoop about what’s going on at your Philadelphia public school; Kristen welcomes tips, story ideas and witty banter.


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