Philadelphia students, teachers get ready for the return of in-person learning

More than 130,000 Philadelphia students are back to school Tuesday with new COVID-19 restrictions.

Tuesday, August 31, 2021
Philly students returning to in-person learning
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Philadelphia students are returning back to the classroom after 18 months.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- On Tuesday, the Philadelphia School District returns to five-day, in-person learning for the first time in 18 months.

The start of the new school year is causing anxiety for parents, students and staff, but not for the same reason.

"We don't know what to expect now and how to handle things, so it's kind of difficult," said Lin Huang, who will be starting 8th grade. "Probably just meeting new people, because we haven't been socially interacting with people in real life but just online."

Huang is one of the dozens of students and parents who stopped at Fitzpatrick Elementary School on Monday to make sure their laptops are ready for in-person learning.

RELATED: Philadelphia schools make last minute COVID safety preps before classes begin

"I'm all for it. I think it's been a long time since they've been out of school so I think it's a good thing to be back and getting into the swing of things, getting to know their friends," said Dave Zach, a parent from Northeast Philadelphia.

"I wouldn't say scared, but concerned for everyone, everyone involved, teachers, students, staff, parents, grandparents, everybody," said Alex Rosmondo, a grandparent whose grandson is starting kindergarten.

The School District of Philadelphia announced Monday night that students at Science Leadership Academy at Beeber (SLA Beeber) will engage in virtual learning with their SLA Beeber teachers Tuesday, August 31 through Friday, September 3 due to needed improvements.

"The School District of Philadelphia's plan was to complete numerous renovations and improvements on the Science Leadership Academy at Beeber campus while in-person learning resumed, with contractors working after school hours under strict health and safety protocols and deep cleaning occurring every night in preparation for the next school day," spokesperson Monica Lewis said. "However, taking into account recent discussions with the school community, we are adjusting these plans for the 2021-2022 school year."

Meanwhile, more than 130,000 Philadelphia students are headed back to school with new restrictions like mandatory masking and in some cases, COVID testing.

"Staff have been having weekly, mandatory testing. That has not changed and that will stay in effect. Students will be tested if they show symptoms," said Lewis.

In classrooms at Lincoln High School, students will be spaced out when possible, doors will be enter or exit only, and water fountains are touch-free.

RELATED: Philadelphia School Board votes to impose vaccine mandate for teachers, school staff

"We're glad to be back for a sense of normalcy but we know that it's not the normal that students, or really any of us, have been used to," said Lewis.

Even with precautions, some parents like Rachelle Jean are still opting for their kids to stay virtual.

"He's doing online, I chose for him to do virtual this year because he has asthma and the new virus thing, I'm not too sure about that," said Rachelle Jean, a parent.

In the city's Spring Garden neighborhood, teachers at the Masterman School are demanding action over asbestos concerns.

Ethan Tannen, a math teacher, said requests for documents from the school district about the asbestos, including its removal, have gone largely ignored.

Superintendent Dr. William Hite insists the building is safe. He says 60 areas of damaged asbestos in the school were addressed this summer.

The school district says about 1,600 students opted for all virtual learning.

Meanwhile, the school board also voted last week to make the COVID-19 vaccine mandatory for all staff. The district and teacher's union are still discussing a timeline for that.