By Stephanie Stahl

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — With classes about to start there are lots of questions and concerns about safety and different regulations. CBS3’s Stephanie Stahl moderated a Town Hall with experts answering some of those questions on Monday.

Doctors from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and health advisors from the Philadelphia School District answered questions about school safety this afternoon.

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“We are encouraging all of you to get vaccines to protect the vulnerable population, in this situation, it will be children in schools,” Gail Carter-Hamilton with the Philadelphia Health Department said.

Nationally, a little over 54% of 16-17-year-olds have received one dose of the vaccine and among 12-15-year-olds, that number is 45% — the lowest vaccination rate for any age group.

Children under the age of 12 are not eligible, that’s why safety measures will be so important.

“First, universal masking policy,” Dr. Mercedes Gutierrez. “Regardless of vaccination status all staff and students will be required to wear their mask when they are indoor in a school department building.”

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A new CBS News poll found 69% of parents are concerned their children will get COVID-19 in school and cases are skyrocketing among kids 12 to 17, up almost 1,400 % since June.

“It doesn’t affect children differently than our old COVID, in terms of symptoms, it causes exact symptoms if anything it causes some more mild symptoms, the one thing that differentiates it is it spreads more easily, not more severe,” Dr. Coffinn said.

The Philadelphia School District has taken a variety of precautions to make classrooms safe, including improving ventilation, spacing students, testing and contact tracing.

“In order to identify closest contacts we’re asking our leaders to really focus on having seating charts keeping people in groups,” Gutierrez said.

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The district’s 19,000 staff members were back in class Monday getting ready for 130,000 students next week.

Stephanie Stahl