PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- The countdown is on in the School District of Philadelphia with the start of the new school year - and new pandemic protocols - just a few weeks away.
In celebration, the district on Thursday announced a "Back to School Bus Tour" to get kids and families excited about returning.
It will be making 31 stops in communities across Philadelphia.
The bus tour will start Monday, August 9 and run through August 27. There will be 31 stops in different communities.
"To support and engage our families and students where they are we are bringing important back to school information and services directly to neighborhoods across Philadelphia," said superintendent Dr. William Hite.
The new school year begins on Tuesday, August 31.
This was made possible through a $150,000 grant from Independence Blue Cross Foundation.
The tour will provide families with vital information and services they need to prepare to return for in-person learning.
Ambassadors will be at each stop to answer questions and students will receive free backpacks with supplies, get free immunizations shots and can also register for school.
"We have like 8,000 backpacks that are for the kids that have rulers and pens and pencils. We are trying to get them ready so they have everything that they need," said Lorina Marshall-Blake, President of the Blue Cross Foundation.
Superintendent Dr. William Hite is excited about the school year and the bus tour. He says safety is a top priority and he feels the district is ready to welcome kids back inside the classroom despite COVID concerns.
"We are following all guidance from the CDC and Philadelphia Department of Public Health and both recommend that children be back in school," said Dr. Hite.
Most parents we talked to are ready for their kids to return to the classroom and have confidence in the district safety guidelines.
"The Chromebook is not teaching them anything. They are not learning anything. There is nothing for them. They have to be in class to get their education," Laura McHugh of North Philadelphia.
"I am concerned but I think that the parents have a right to chose whether their kids wear a mask or not because everybody wants control over their bodies, and here is a prime example. We would like choice," said Angela Lauria of Mt. Airy
Dr. Hite says there will be a virtual option for families.
"We want individuals to carefully consider that option. It's a 100 percent virtual option. It is not like the hybrid option we did in the spring," said Dr. Hite.
The deadline is to apply for the virtual option is August 13.
Most students are expected to return to schools and the district wants to assure them that safety is a top priority.
"Everyone, regardless of vaccine status, will be required to wear masks in our schools. We will also be testing all adults and all children who are symptomatic," said Dr. Hite.