Philly schools to drop testing requirement for vaccinated staff, keep mask mandate for now

School District of Philadelphia headquarters

School District of Philadelphia. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

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The School District of Philadelphia is relaxing its COVID-19 testing requirements for staff, while keeping its mask mandate in place.

Superintendent Dr. William Hite on Monday sent an email to school staff informing them of district plans to phase out on-site employee testing.

Starting March 14, the district will no longer require vaccinated staff members to get tested. Testing for unvaccinated staff will drop from twice a week to once a week.

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For now, the district is not changing its masking requirements.

SDP requires students and staff to wear masks, and recommends either a surgical mask, KF94, or N95. In early February, the district updated its guidance to say that cloth masks alone are no longer considered effective against the virus, and that anyone who wears a cloth mask should double up with a surgical mask.

On Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention dropped its recommendation for universal school masking, instead recommending mask mandates only in communities where COVID cases and hospitalizations are high.

Delaware, which was planning to drop its statewide school mask mandate at the end of March, is now moving up its timeline. Gov. John Carney announced Monday that the state will stop requiring masks in schools on March 1.

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The statewide mask mandate has already ended in Pennsylvania, and a growing number of districts have shifted from requiring masks to recommending them.

“Given the many hours we spend together indoors, we will continue to require staff and students to wear masks while in school and offices,” Hite wrote in Monday’s message. “As the pandemic evolves, more changes to health and safety protocols are likely,” based on consultation with the Philadelphia Department of Public Health.

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