By Jan Carabeo

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The back-to-school battle in Philadelphia is heating up. More than a dozen nonprofit groups that work with children and families are now weighing in, and the teachers union doesn’t like what they have to say.

Fourteen nonprofits in the city are now urging Philadelphia teachers to get back into the classrooms. Once they are there, the organizations are asking teachers to identify any issues and assess the situation for themselves.

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That really has the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers upset, calling what the organizations are saying disappointing, upsetting, and woefully misguided.

Jerry Jordan, President of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, says his members are afraid and they have every right to be.

“To suggest that they should enter school buildings and ‘evaluate the conditions themselves’ is truly astonishing. My members are not environmental scientists. It’s insulting,” Jordan said in a statement.

This comes amid an already contentious battle over getting back to in-person learning in the School District of Philadelphia.

Earlier this week, as many as 2,000 pre-K through second-grade teachers were supposed to report to classrooms to begin planning for the return of students to hybrid learning.

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Instead, many educators rallied outside of dozens of school buildings across the city, saying it’s still too unsafe to return to classrooms.

The teachers union says the school district has not done enough to implement proper safety measures at school buildings.

Meantime, the city says teachers will not face disciplinary action for not returning to school just yet.

Mayor Jim Kenney addressed the issue.

“You’re not going to be able to force people to go to work, especially in this environment. What are we going to do? Send the police out to pick them up and take them to the classroom?” Kenney said. “We agreed to do a mediator, which we’re doing. That’s the process we’re following. In the meantime, we’re getting CHOP to vaccinate people. I believe starting on the 22nd, try to get everybody a level of comfort and not do it in a contentious way.”

“I think that people can prevent spread at schools if they follow safety precautions so I don’t think the vaccination is necessary for schools to be open,” Philadelphia Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley said.

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Even though Farley says vaccines may not be necessary for the re-opening of schools, the health department in partnership with Children’s Hospital will be offering COVID vaccines to all school employees starting Feb. 22. Twenty thousand doses will be provided to teachers and staff at CHOP and six area school buildings for eight weeks.