School District of Philadelphia to require students to wear masks indoors at start of the school year
As the school year approaches and COVID cases increase, mask-wearing will be a main protective measure.
The School District of Philadelphia announced that all students are expected to wear a face mask indoors regardless of receiving the vaccine during the new school year, which begins on Aug. 31, 2021.
This will be the first time in almost 18 months that students will be face-to-face with their teachers, classmates, and peers.
School sessions will be full-day sessions, and some parents remain hesitant to send their children back to school due to safety concerns.
Superintendent of The School District of Philadelphia Dr. William Hite responded to those concerns by pointing to the air and surface purifiers, touchless hand sanitizer stations, and testing sites for staff and students that will be present upon their child’s return to school.
“We’ve been working hard throughout the summer to ensure that every school has many layers of safety,” Hite said at a press conference.
Student athletes and children involved in performing arts, such as band, will be required to be tested 1-2 times a week. However, vaccinated students will be opted out of testing.
Parents and family members who plan on seeing their children in sports activities are limited to outdoor activities only.
Teachers will help students learn how to re-engage with the daily, pre-pandemic routines and interact with children after a year and a half of limited interaction with one another.
Hite also said students will be surrounded by responsible staff and teachers to support them after the emotional events of the past 18 months.
“We will surround them with caring educators to help the young people begin to heal, first and foremost, from the social and emotional traumas they have been experiencing,” Hite said. “Examples of those are physical separation from friends, teachers, or loss from family members.”
Safety measures also include weekly testing for employees during the school year, and positive cases must be isolated for at least 10 days.
“While three feet of distance will be encouraged where possible, the priority from both the CDC and PDPH is the full return of students with multiple layers of safety in place,” he said.
Children are also expected to bring their district-issued Chromebooks on the first day of school, which will be core of their school supplies.
Hite is encouraging students who have not touched their computers since mid-June to check on their Chromebooks and make sure they still work.
Students and parents who want to stay in virtual learning are able to enroll in the School District of Philadelphia Virtual Academy (PVA).
Although PVA may be beneficial for some students, Hite said it will be very different from the virtual learning environment that students have been used to since March 2020.
“PVA students will not remain enrolled in or receive instruction from teachers in their current school,” he said. “They will engage in 100% independent learning on their own schedule using learning resources provided by an assigned teacher.”
The two-week PVA enrollment window for the 2021-2022 school year will begin on Aug. 2 and run through Friday, Aug. 13.
For more information on PVA enrollment, visit the School District website.