This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
Decision day looms on the horizon.
In one week, the Philadelphia School District will announce its plans to deal with its $81 million budget gap.
Without additional funding, Superintendent William Hite says he will be forced to choose between two bad options: either lay off 1,300 staffers, mostly teachers, or save money by shortening the school year.
This could happen by opening schools late or closing early.
Either way, by forgoing the state-mandated 180-day school calendar, the District would be sending a bold message to the Corbett administration and Pennsylvania lawmakers who have spent the summer squabbling over the Philadelphia cigarette tax authorization bill – the District’s best hope for a relatively large and immediate cash infusion.
Without that influx, exactly a month before schools are scheduled to open, parents have been once again left sitting anxiously in wait.
On Friday, at the District’s annual E! Day: Back to School Expo, held at the High School of the Future in West Philly, many parents said they were shaken by the two prospects.
"As a parent, I’m scared to death," said Tonya Wildes, a parent of three.
Wildes’ oldest goes to a private high school, but her younger twin boys are about to enter second grade at West Philly’s Lea Elementary, where Wildes teaches.
"As a teacher, I’m also scared to death because of the classroom sizes, and I don’t think we’re going to have enough staff as usual," she said. "And I don’t think they’re going to give us adequate supplies either."