Philly pre-K program will reopen in person

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio)  Despite the rising numbers of new COVID-19 cases, Philadelphia’s prekindergarten program will resume this fall in person.

The director of pre-K operations, Chante Brown, said providers will have to follow the Health Department’s guidance, which includes masks for all, social distancing and new cleaning protocols, as well as submit rigorous safety plans.

“The reopening plan, the cleaning plan, all of that must be submitted and is vetted by our entire team, including our child care health consultant,” Brown explained. 

Brown said only four agencies have dropped out, leaving 130 locations for 3,300 open seats.

Mayor Kenney said he’s proud the program is continuing.

“We just can’t allow the pandemic to take safe, quality learning experiences away from our children, especially at the most critical stage in their development,” he said. 

Enrollment is opening just as the School District of Philadelphia halted its plan to resume in-person classes in September and opted to start the year online.

Health Commissioner Tom Farley said the smaller setting in pre-K and younger age of the children makes the risk lower, though it doesn’t eliminate it. 

Farley also said the city has seen improvement in compliance with the mask requirement.

Monitors have been posted at SEPTA stations and outside retail stores to measure what percent of people are wearing masks, and it’s gone from 60% at the start of the effort in June, to, currently, 76%. 

“Most people are doing the right thing but not quite enough. I would love to get it to 90%, so we just need to get the people who are not quite doing this yet to be using masks,” he said. 

The city’s average new case count is up over the past two weeks, which postponed the return of indoor dining until at least Sept. 1.

Farley said the city will make a final decision on that date by Aug. 21.