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Masks Most Important for Philly Students to Return to Class, Survey Shows

Students were the most receptive to the idea, with 35% ranking mask wearing as their top safety choice

Boy wearing protective face mask while playing at playground.
Nitat Termmee / Getty Images

The most important thing for students, parents, teachers and district staff to feel comfortable returning to classrooms in Philadelphia amid the coronavirus outbreak is the wearing of masks, a new survey shows.

The survey by the School District of Philadelphia took responses from June 15-22, receiving feedback from more than 15,000 parents/guardians; 12,000 staff members; 7,100 students; and 1,200 central office staff members. It was conducted as the district continues to formulate its plan for restarting in-person instruction in the fall term.

Overall, about 30% of respondents said that everyone wearing a mask was at the top of their list of safety measures needed for in-person learning. Students were the most receptive to the idea, with 35% ranking mask wearing as their top safety choice.

Consistently, all groups ranked masks, hand washing/sanitizer stations and daily temperature checks as the most important safety measures.

However, some respondents raised concerns about masks being uncomfortable in rooms with no air conditioning, the feasibility of enforcing masks for small children and the effects of masks on students with asthma.

Lower-ranked responses included daily school cleanings, having students refrain from sharing materials and staggered schedules, among others. Some parents expressed concern about daily cleanings not being thorough enough, citing school facilities being unclean before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Overall, 71% of students would feel comfortable or very comfortable returning to class if the district adopts all safety protocols, while 65% parents/guardians, 66% of school-based staff and 60% of central office staff felt the same.

However, 42% of school-based staff raised concerns about the availability of child care.

Superintendent William Hite has said that all options are on the table, including a continuation of virtual learning, a hybrid model of virtual and in-person instruction and staggered schedules to prevent overcrowding.

The school district plans to reveal its reopening plan by the middle of July and continues to ask for feedback.

“There are many important decisions that need to be made around how we approach a return to school for our students and staff and this is something that has to be done collaboratively,” Hite said in a statement. “The input we have received is essential as we work towards finalizing plans for the upcoming school year.”

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