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53 elementary schools in the Philadelphia School District will  reopen for in-person learning this month.

Credit: Kylie Cooper

Some Philadelphia schools will reopen for in-person learning this month for students in prekindergarten through second grade.

Starting on Monday, 53 elementary schools in the Philadelphia School District will allow eligible pre-K through second grade students to attend in-person classes twice a week, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. A group of 50 schools will reopen each week until March 22, when all pre-K through second grade classes will have returned to school.

“We all agree that the time is right to get our young people back into school buildings,” Mayor Jim Kenney said during a press conference.

Students and teachers will be spaced at least six feet apart and will be required to wear masks, the Inquirer reported. School staff will be tested weekly for COVID-19, and 20% of students in schools will receive weekly testing. 

District officials originally planned to return to in-person learning in February, but had to postpone the reopening after the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, a union for educators in the city, ordered members to stay home out of concern that the reopening was unsafe.

The first 53 schools to reopen were chosen because officials from the union, district and city all agreed the buildings had necessary ventilation for a safe learning environment, WHYY reported. The district will use air purifiers in order to improve airflow in buildings that have inadequate ventilation.

School staff recently began receiving COVID-19 vaccinations last week, but it will be more than a month before staff receive both doses of the vaccine, WHYY reported. 

Some parents have expressed concern about their children attending classes in school during the pandemic, referencing the ongoing crisis of asbestos, mold, and lead in some district schools, according to the Inquirer.

“This is a big first step in the right direction,” Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. said during the press conference. “It’s not one of us doing it alone, but us doing it together.”