Virtual Learning Updates Requested

Testimony of Dr. Cheri Micheau to Board of Education, 11/19/20

It would be very helpful for the public to hear from the SDP about the status of computers and internet access, along with other supplies, for students participating in virtual learning, and to know average attendance in virtual lessons. What students are being excluded from online instruction?

First, I believe that the SDP was able to distribute Chromebooks to most students, but I wonder about the status of these Chromebooks eight months into the virtual learning period. I understand from colleagues that a number of students who were given older Chromebooks from their schools’ supplies are now dealing with dead batteries, and I imagine that other students may have computers that have other repair needs. How are faulty Chromebooks being replaced or repaired? Can we have specific numbers on how many students have WORKING Chromebooks at this time?

Second, where is the SDP on helping families obtain internet access? How many families are still without services, and what is being doing to reach out to help these families? For non- English-speaking families, how are the FACE Office and schools’ BCAs assisting in family outreach on this issue? Can we have the specific numbers on how many students have adequate internet connection to complete their virtual lessons?

Third, it is clear when viewing virtual lessons for the youngest students that supplies such as pencils, crayons, markers, paper, and notebooks that children need for writing, particularly, are in short supply in many homes. Given the generous support of some local institutions, are there any charitable funds available to resupply schools with resources that could be distributed to children in under-resourced homes?

Then, overall, what is the current rate of daily attendance in virtual lessons, and for students who have not been logging on, what are the reasons? Are the attendance numbers reliable in indicating actual student participation, or are they, as in the spring, only indicating initial log in (and not actual participation and completion of work)? What outreach efforts have been undertaken, and, where needed, in what languages? How many families have yet to be contacted? And how many families have left the non-charter-public schools of Philadelphia during virtual learning?

It is clear that teachers and principals, as well as parents and extended family members, are doing their best to provide meaningful instruction during this difficult time. It will be very helpful for the community to know if adequate support and oversight are being provided to schools by the SDP administration.