Philadelphia, PA

Philly’s Required Masks for Public School Students Raises a Dilemma

Genius Turner
Due to CDC guidance, Philadelphia School District will require students to wear masks.(Alliance for Excellent Education/Flickr)

With vaccines only approved for people age 12 and older, millions of kids will return unvaccinated

PHILADELPHIA — When classes resume this coming fall, though teachers and staff will be thrilled to see returning students, everybody is required to wear masks. Students included.

On the heels of the Centers for Disease Control's recommended fully reopening of schools for in-person instruction, Philly’s school district set its sights on adjusting to the new environment. 

“We have taken every precaution and added some precautions ... to ensure that we have appropriate mitigation strategies,” Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. said. So far, the most notable precaution consists of equipping each classroom with air purifiers.   

Three types of air purifiers developed by NASA, which use ActivePure Technology, are said to be powerful enough to “eliminate 99% of the novel coronavirus within three minutes,” along with eliminating other viruses, bacteria, mold, and fungi. 

“It started off with testing out for the space station,” said chief operating officer Reggie McNeil. “It’s been tested by independent laboratories. It’s been tested in schools. It’s been tested without being in space. So, we’re pretty confident on the product.”

According to the latest report, schools may allow a classroom or team to go unmasked if the "teacher(s) and coach(es) and at least 95% of all students are fully vaccinated.” Which is excellent news. Of course, the question begs to be raised: What’s to be said for the thousands of elementary teachers, in Philly, whose students are too young for vaccination? 

Here lies the slight dilemma confronting the return of millions of students along with teachers and staff this fall. 

According to USA Today, “As the world returns to normal, fully vaccinated parents feel left behind while their young children are unprotected against the coronavirus.”

Daniel Horowitz, a concerned father, went so far as to gripe, “They don’t seem to be taking the kids into account too much when making these regulations.”

Recently on On Good Morning America, the director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children's Hospital of Pennsylvania, Dr. Paul Offit, addressed the dilemma confronting school districts across the nation.

For a parent of a 10-year-old, knowing that you have a highly contagious virus and unvaccinated population of children less than 12 years of age in the winter months, I would only feel safe sending my child to school if I knew that there was going to be a mask mandate.

In short, at least for the foreseeable future, Philly's school superintendents will have to embrace the motto — there's no easy answer, there's only surviving through the question.

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