Philly schools will require masking for 2 weeks following winter break

File - Third graders at Fanny Coppin Elementary school listen as Superintendent Tony Watlington reads aloud from ''Looking Like Me'' by Walter Dean Myers. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

File - Third graders at Fanny Coppin Elementary school listen as Superintendent Tony Watlington reads aloud from ''Looking Like Me'' by Walter Dean Myers. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Philly students and staff will be required to wear face masks inside school buildings for two weeks after they return from winter break, Superintendent Tony Watlington said at a press conference Wednesday.

Watlington described the decision as a “proactive measure” to prevent the coronavirus from spreading since “many of us will be involved in quite a few social gatherings over the next few weeks,” he said.

Winter break starts on Dec. 26 and runs through the following Monday for staff and Tuesday for students. Classes are expected to resume fully in person, Watlington said.

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In addition to masking, the district is providing families with free at-home tests, which can be picked up at five school-based locations starting this week.

Philly public schools started classes in August with two weeks of mandatory masking.

At the time, the district’s chief medical officer Kendra McDow said that masks could be required over the course of the school year under specific circumstances, including classroom and school-wide outbreaks or following school breaks.

The school district’s decision comes amid concerns of the “tripledemic” of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), influenza (flu), and COVID-19, which continues to spread across the U.S. and in the Philadelphia region.

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