SDP virtual town hall addresses health and safety protocols

District medical officer Barbara Klock with District sign language interpreter Thea Tynes during the SDP's first virtual town hall session Tuesday.-Screenshot

The School District of Philadelphia held its first virtual town hall sessions Tuesday.

The town hall, which was led by district medical officer Dr. Barbara Klock, addressed healthy and safety protocols the district had been discussing for the 2020-21 academic school year.

“Four pillars that we will use to stave off the coronavirus include hygiene, masks, distancing, and screening for symptoms,” Block said during the hour-long virtual session. “We will need everyone's cooperation and collaboration to make sure this process will be done smoothly.”

All students, teachers, and staff will be required to wear a mask. No temperature checks will be taken at any of the schools.

“Following the CDC guidelines closely, it’s been known that temperatures are not completely a strong indicator of the virus,” Block said. “We also have 130,000 students, so it would be heard to do the temperature checks without it taking away from their education time.”

Parents or caretakers will be asked to screen for symptoms prior to students going to school. If a student has a temperature, is sick, or experiencing any symptoms, students should remain home.

Teachers and staff will complete a pre-entry screening form every day up until three hours prior to entry for work. The screening must be done electronically.

“They will have to answer a group of questions,” Block said, “Depending on their answers, they will receive a green check or red x that they will have to display on their phone when they walk through the school door."

Cleaning teams will be disinfecting high touch areas several times a day. Social distancing guidelines will also be implemented in the hallways and classrooms.

Desks in the classroom will be in one direction and will be six feet apart. Teachers will also have to stay six feet apart from their students.

To help minimize the interaction of the student population, students will be in cohorts in the classroom as well as when they move throughout the building.

Classroom tools such as calculators or pens will no longer be shared among students.

“We will also be eliminating soft fabric like carpets, curtains, and stuffed animals as it’s more difficult to clean as these items hold more germs,” Block said.

District officials are looking at two scenarios for food services including students eating their lunches at their desk in the classroom or eating in the cafeteria using CDC guidelines.

Restrooms will also be cleaned frequently with CDC approved cleaning materials.

“Sinks will be delineated as usable or not usable based on distancing and the same will apply with the stalls and urinals,” Block said. “Teachers will also determine how many of their students can use the restroom at one time.”

At the end of Block’s presentation, teachers and parents were able to ask questions and voice their concerns.

Some of the topics that attendees had questions about included virtual learning opportunities for students and family members with compromised immune systems and CDC guidelines for preschoolers and special education students.

“We want to hear everyone’s concerns and suggestions,” Block said. “This is a collaborative effort to make sure that everyone remains safe and healthy during the school year.”

School district administrators will use the feedback provided from surveys and virtual town halls and health guidelines from local, state, and federal officials to make a decision about how to resume school in the fall.

A final plan is expected to be announced later this month.

215-893-5716; chill@phillytrib.com.

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