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Cardona came to Philly and Upper Darby as stops on his "Help is Here" tour of U.S. schools. Photo: Getty Images.
Cardona came to Philly and Upper Darby as stops on his "Help is Here" tour of U.S. schools. Photo: Getty Images.

Sec. Miguel Cardona comes to North Philly with hope for reopening schools

Biden’s Education Secretary was in town for a tour of schools in North Philadelphia and Darby on April 6.

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On April 6, the Department of Education Secretary Miguel Cardona came to the Philadelphia region to tour two schools, one in North Philadelphia and the other in Upper Darby, as the Biden administration pushes to hit its goal of reopening most K-8 schools by the president’s 100th day in office.

In his visit to Philly, Cardona stuck to the administration’s playbook.

“We’re at a point in our country’s history where every decision we make is either going to help address barriers in education or worsen them,” he was quoted as saying in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

In Philly, especially in the North where Cardona visited, it’s been a mixed bag of results transitioning to virtual learning and now having to come back to the classroom.

Despite efforts such as PHLConnectED, a number of students, predominantly Black and Brown, still struggled with attendance in online school. The effect was a dip in student performance across the board.

At a school board meeting back on Jan. 28, Superintendent William Hite, who joined Cardona on his tour of Olney Elementary on April 6 along with a number of other Philadelphia public officials, said just 35% of third graders in the district were reading at grade level.

After a tense standoff with the teacher’s union throughout February, the School District of Philadelphia finally brought back a hybrid learning format on March 9. 

The day before Cardona’s visit, on April 5, the remaining 23 schools as part of the district’s hybrid learning return plan were cleared for in-person learning. 

At Olney Elementary, Cardona toured one of the hybrid classrooms, and spoke about the complications of returning to in-person learning for a city like Philadelphia, with aging infrastructure that doesn’t provide the greatest environment for ventilation or other safety measures.

“I understand the infrastructure needs here are great,” he said.

It was the main concern for teachers when they were asked to return for in-person learning back in February, and initially rejected the move.

President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan Act allocates approximately $125 billion for the K-12 education system. In Philadelphia’s case, it has $1.2 billion coming its way.

The school district can use the funds under law to bridge any gaps developed during the interruption of in-person learning, test, repair and upgrade projects to improve air quality, purchase education tech, and further mental health support for students.

Philadelphia was just one stop on Cardona’s “Help is Here” tour of schools around the country to track their reopening.

Before coming to Philly, the Secretary of Education was in Boston, Massachusetts and Laurel, Delaware.

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