PHILADELPHIA - The School District of Philadelphia on Thursday updated its safety plan for a return to full in-person learning on Aug. 31, including mask-wearing for students and staff and mandatory weekly testing for faculty members.
"We are excited, prepared and ready," Dr. William R. Hite, Jr., Ed.D said. "We also know that safely welcoming students back into our classrooms and surrounding them with caring educators and critical supports is the best opportunity to help our young people begin to heal from the social-emotional trauma they have been experiencing, accelerate their learning and re-engage in the daily routines, structures and collaborative environments that help them to thrive both socially and academically."
The district revised its safety plan to meet the recently updated recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about mask-wearing in schools regardless of a person's vaccination status. The federal tweaks were made due to an uptick in new COVID-19 infections propelled by the more contagious Delta variant.
All students and staff in Philadelphia public schools grades K-12 will be required to wear masks indoors at all times, according to the district. Staff members are subject to weekly coronavirus testing and on-site testing will be available for students who display symptoms of COVID-19.
Under the district's ‘Test to Stay’ guidelines, someone in close contact with a COVID-19 infection will be tested at least three non-consecutive days within the first seven days following exposure.
Individuals who stay negative through the testing period can stay in school and do not have to quarantine. Students or staff with a positive test are required to isolate for at least 10 days. Students in isolation will receive instructional support while at home, according to the district.
Athletes who play high-risk sports and students participating in performing arts like band and choir will be tested 1-2 times a week. the district said. Vaccinated athletes and performing arts students may opt-out of weekly testing with proof of vaccination.
The district is offering a virtual academy for families in "extenuating circumstances for whom a return to in-person learning could pose a significant personal challenge." The School District of Philadelphia’s Virtual Academy, which has been an online educational option for students in grades 6-12 since 2013, is expanding to include students in kindergarten through 5th grade for the 2021-2022 school year.
Families interested in the Virtual Academy must register in the allotted window between Aug. 2 and Aug. 13. In this virtual option, students receive 100% independent learning on their own schedule and use learning resources provided by an assigned teacher.