PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — On the eve of a full, in-person return to learning, the Philadelphia School District is looking at some new classrooms but the same COVID concerns.

Superintendent Dr. William Hite spoke with CBS3 as he looked around Community Propel Academy, a new 183,000-square-foot school. He wanted the focus of the school to be about bringing classes and students together.

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“You can see spaces where students can engage together, you can see spaces where teachers can bring their classes together,” Dr. Hite said.

The new building cost $80 million and will host 1,800 students. But as a new school year comes around, some are battling over the condition of older buildings.

The teachers and staff at Masterman in Spring Garden staged protests last week about potential asbestos exposure inside the building. Dr. Hite is aware of the complaints.

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“I absolutely understand their concern, and I would be equally as concerned,” he said, adding, “It’s important to get them as much information as we can get them.”

Environmental inspections will continue to make sure the building is safe to use. The concern comes as children and adults return to the classroom amid a still raging pandemic.

All 223 schools within the district are equipped with COVID safety protocols and mask mandates. The district just added a vaccine mandate for the staff.

All in the hopes of a solid year — and a smooth start.

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“Things are gonna happen in certain places, and we’ll have to respond” Dr. Hite said, adding that there will definitely be “excited educators who are anxious to see their children.”