A School District of Philadelphia building is closing due to COVID-19 cases, less than three weeks after the district began bringing some young students back to classrooms.
Mayfair Elementary will close Thursday until April 1 due to “multiple positive COVID-19 cases,” according to a letter sent by school principal Guy Lowery to school staff.
“Please know that the entire school will be deep cleaned and disinfected before it is reopened for students and staff,” Lowery wrote, adding that classes will continue online.
Mayfair resumed in-person classes on March 8 — one of 98 district elementary schools that have welcomed back pre-K through second grade students this month. Another 35 school buildings are set to reopen for those grades on March 22.
Up until now, only second graders have returned to the Mayfair Elementary’s building. Due to overcrowding, pre-K, kindergarten, and first graders had been housed at the nearby Austin Meehan Middle School since before the pandemic. That building has not yet reopened.
A spokesperson for the School District of Philadelphia said it would work with the city’s department of public health to monitor the situation.
“The School District has proactively planned for these instances and will continue to be responsive, as needed, to support healthy school environments,” spokesperson Monica Lewis said.
It is not immediately clear how many students or staff at the building have tested positive for COVID-19, or whether the virus had spread within the school, but a staff member who asked not to be identified said they were notified of two cases last week.
Many schools in the region have held in-person classes for months without significant coronavirus spread.
Traditional public school buildings in Philly reopened this month only after district officials reached an agreement with the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers after extensive third-party mediation.
In a statement, PFT President Jerry Jordan said the cases at Mayfair underscore the need for greater transparency from the district. Unlike other school systems, Philadelphia has not committed to a trackable database of positive COVID-19 cases. The union also says the district needs to complete more timely contact tracing and better enforcement of mask wearing.
“There is no room for error when mitigating COVID. Testing, notification, and tracing — along with the ongoing vaccination efforts — are key elements of a multilayered mitigation strategy.”
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