PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Despite pushback from teachers, the Philadelphia School District is moving forward with plans to resume in-person instruction. Eyewitness News was able to get a look Thursday at some of the COVID-19 prevention measures being put in place in school buildings.
The school district is continuing to move forward with plans to reopen schools for hybrid learning on Feb. 22.READ MORE: Philadelphia Weather: Chance For Strong To Severe Storms On Tuesday, Damaging Winds
For the first time, Eyewitness News is getting a tour inside Nebinger Elementary in South Philadelphia — a first glimpse at the layers of COVID-19 safety protocols put in place.
“Our continued commitment to slowly and safely begin to phase in staff and students for in-person learning opportunities, beginning with pre-k to students whose families chose this option in the fall,” Philadelphia School District Superintendent Dr. William Hite said.
Social distancing signage is plastered throughout the hallways, along with hand-sanitizing stations and touchless water fountains. Classroom sizes are also capped at no more than 18 students, with most rooms set up for no more than six kids.
Nebinger Elementary is preparing to welcome back 50 pre-kindergarten to second-grade students and classrooms have been equipped for their arrival.
Plastic barriers surround each desk, PPE equipment will be distributed every day, and rapid COVID-19 testing will begin at the start of schools reopening.READ MORE: EXCLUSIVE VIDEO: Large Group Of Noisy Dirt Bikes, ATVs Take Over Radnor Streets
The controversial window fans have also been installed to promote healthy air flow and ventilation in this 100-year-old building and in 31 other schools.
“We want to maintain a classroom temperature of 68 degrees,” Hite said. “I know the fans may not look pretty or fancy but scientifically they perform the job we need them to do. The fans deliver enough outside airflow to support the safe occupancy for up to 18 people in a classroom.”
The teachers’ union is protesting what they still consider unsafe conditions at schools, leaving their return in the hands of a mediator whose begun assessing building safety.
School and health officials say they’re following the science and see no reason to delay reopening plans, as evidence shows virus cases have steadily declined in Philadelphia since December.
“What we’ve learned is that it is possible to have in-person education during this period,” said Dr. Susan Coffin with the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. “And, I think, actually, we’re entering a moment where it’s more possible than ever.”MORE NEWS: Philadelphia School District Superintendent Dr. William Hite Will Not Seek Contract Renewal After School Year
“The science is clear that with all these layers of safety in place the risk of COVID-19 transmission in our schools becomes very low,” Hite said. “So I can confidently say, our schools are ready to open.”