By Natasha Brown

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The Philadelphia School District is preparing for students and teachers to return to school next month with a big focus on keeping everyone safe.

The school district is adding even more safety protocols as it prepares to welcome back all of its students for the 2021-22 school year.

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After 18 months, the School District of Philadelphia is preparing to welcome back all of its students to in-person learning on Aug. 31.

“We are excited to welcome our young people back and we are constantly and continuously getting ready,” Superintendent Dr. William Hite said.

For the thousands of students who will be stepping back into schools for the first time since the pandemic, they will notice a wide array of safety protocols that will remain in place.

Hand sanitizing stations throughout buildings, 3-feet social distancing in classrooms and air purifiers in learning spaces. Now, with newly released guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, masking will also be required.

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“At the School District of Philadelphia, masking, everyone in our schools will be required to wear masks or other approved facial coverings whether they are vaccinated or not vaccinated,” Hite said.

Weekly COVID-19 testing will continue for school district staff and on-site testing will be available for students who show signs of the virus.

“We will also follow a test to stay model,” Hite said. “That means that close contacts and positive cases will be tested at least three nonconsecutive days within the first seven days following exposure.”

Those students in high-risk extracurricular activities will also be subjected to a stay-to-play model.

“Athletes who play high-risk sports and performing arts like band and choir will be tested one or two times a week,” Hite said. “Vaccinated athletes and performing arts students may opt out of weekly testing with proof of vaccination.”

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The district says that during the phased-in hybrid learning period that began last spring less than 1% of its staff tested positive for COVID-19. They are continuing to advise staff and students to get vaccinated, although they cannot make that a mandate.