Philly schools to implement COVID-19 testing when students return to in-person learning

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Schools in the Philadelphia area are introducing COVID-19 testing as a new layer of protection when in-person education resumes.

Classes are all virtual right now in the Philadelphia School District, but whenever a phase-in to in-school education begins, the district plans rapid COVID-19 testing for students and staff, said Superintendent William Hite.

“It will be voluntary,” Hite told reporters at a news briefing. “It will be mandatory for people with symptoms, naturally, but voluntary for those who do not have symptoms. That is our approach right now.

Hite said the district is working with Children’s Hospital and the city Health Department to develop the testing program. He said it may also include mobile vans to perform testing in high-spread communities.

At Mastery schools, Philadelphia’s largest charter network, instruction is currently remote. CEO Scott Gordon said when in-person classes resume, COVID-19 testing for staff will be required.

“We're going to introduce weekly testing for all of our staff and offer weekly testing to all of our students,” Gordon told KYW Newsradio. “It will be mandatory for staff. For students, we will seek parent permission and it won't be mandatory. We will be encouraging parents and families to take advantage of the opportunity to have their students tested weekly.”

“Research has shown that by doing weekly testing, we can lower the chances of transmission within our schools by more than 60%,” Gordon said.

Gordon said Mastery schools are offering testing to residents living near their schools, as well.

Mastery operates 24 schools in Philadelphia and Camden.