By Tom Ignudo

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The School District of Philadelphia announced on Thursday that masks will still be required for students and staff for the upcoming school year. Students return to classes on Aug. 31. 

Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that fully vaccinated teachers and students can return to classrooms without mask-wearing, but the city’s school district is entering the academic year with caution. 

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School District officials said they’re following the Philadelphia Department of Public Health’s guidelines on wearing masks as buildings will be open for all Philadelphia students for the first time since March 2020.

The guidelines put in place by the School District align with what the CDC announced last week for those who are not fully vaccinated. The CDC said masks should be worn indoors by all individuals — age 2 and older — who are not fully vaccinated. COVID-19 vaccinations have not yet been authorized for children under the age of 12. 

The CDC also recommends that schools maintain at least three feet of physical distance between students within classrooms. 

The School District will test their students for COVID-19 if their parents fill out a form to give them consent. 

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The test is a rapid antigen test that delivers results in 15 minutes. If a student were to test positive, they will need to stay home for 10 days, and may also need to have their results confirmed with a PCR or molecular test. Students can participate in digital learning if their health allows. 

Families will be notified of their child’s results by email or text the day their child was tested.

On Thursday, the school district showed off air purifiers that will be placed in all schools in order to attempt to eliminate COVID-19 and other viruses. 

“These air and surface purifiers use NASA-based active plus pure technology, which eliminates 99.9% of airborne SARS-COVID2 viruses and come in various sizes depending on the area of the space that they are to be used,” Philadelphia School District COO Reggie McNeil said. “When tested in an in-close setting, the air purifying technology deactivated the virus to below detectable levels in three minutes.”

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In addition to the air purifiers, the district said cleaning and sanitizing will continue.