The City of Philadelphia will join the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia to start a vaccination program for teachers and school staff in late February.
The details of the joint effort were still being worked out. However, Mayor Jim Kenney said the city planned to hold pop-up vaccination sites at district, charter, parochial and independent schools.
“As we near the one-year anniversary of the pandemic, getting children back into classrooms throughout the city is vitally important to their future,” Kenney said. “This vaccination program will go a long way to easing the concerns that teachers have expressed.”
According to a 6abc.com report, the program was announced as teachers and staff protested outside their buildings on Monday, claiming they feared the ventilation systems in the city’s aging schools were not enough to address the potential spread of the coronavirus.
The school district had ordered lower-grade teachers to attend to their schools Monday, but then backed off the mandate while a mediator reviewed issues raised by the teachers union. The district has over 120,000 students in 215 district-operated schools, and another 80,000 students in charter, cyber and alternative schools.
Superintendent William Hite wants to offer students who have been learning remotely for nearly a year because of the pandemic a chance to return to school Feb. 22 under an optional hybrid instruction model.
He said the district has enhanced its cleaning operations and identified ventilation problems, and will not open classrooms until needed improvements are made. In a statement released Monday, Hite defended his decision for teachers to return and addressed ventilation concerns.
“The return of staff to buildings reflects 11 months of careful and science-based preparation by thousands of district staff,” he said. “To date, the district has spent about $65 million due to COVID-19. That includes nearly $4 million in ventilation assessments, repairs and enhancements to ensure healthy airflow.”