When the Philadelphia Board of Education devoted its entire March 18 meeting to public comment, it was flooded with children and parents pleading for one thing: open classrooms for all kids, as soon as possible.
“This is hard to say, but it’s been tough for me to make friends. Trying to get to know another person from behind the screen isn’t the same,” said Abigail Gorman, an 11-year-old fifth-grader at Girard Academy of Music Program (GAMP) in South Philadelphia. “Is this really the best we can do?”
Many of the parents who spoke that night were affiliated with “Philadelphians for Open Schools,” a group formed in February to pressure the school district to reopen classrooms more quickly. Right now, only children enrolled in pre-K through second grade are back in the classroom two days a week.
The group is the mouthpiece for a small but influential constituency in public school politics: higher-income parents with the means to send their children to private schools, or to move to the suburbs.
On Facebook, the group’s roughly 300 members — the majority of whom send their children to elementary schools in affluent neighborhoods or magnet high schools — share frustrations with remote learning, and post links to stories about suburban and out-of-state districts with faster reopening plans.