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Omicron Continues To 'Significantly Impact' In-Person Learning As 2 More Philly Schools Go Virtual To Bring Total Over 100

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- The number of Philadelphia schools switching to virtual learning this week is now over 100. Two more schools have joined the growing list because of the COVID-19 surge brought upon by the omicron variant.

Right now, a total of 101 schools are virtual. On Wednesday afternoon, Superintendent Dr. William Hite gave an update on what's being done to keep students safe.

"It is an understatement that this school year has not been easy or predictable," Hite said.

More than 100 Philadelphia schools shifted to virtual learning this week.

"Omicron continues to significantly impact our staffing levels, sometimes forcing us to sometimes temporarily pivot from in-person to virtual learning at a moment's notice," Hite said.

Hite addressed parents, teachers, students and staff in a Facebook Live on Wednesday afternoon. He says the school district is finding ways to maneuver around the omicron variant and keep school doors open.

"This includes installing multiple hand sanitizing stations in every building, placing an air purifier in every classroom and common space and area, providing disinfecting wipes and other cleaning supplies for schools," Hite said.

He also says PPE is available as well if needed.

"We have plenty and where we don't have plenty, we will buy more. Any school that feels they don't have PPE or supplies, please contact your school administrator," Hite said.

But the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers feels otherwise, claiming classrooms are not safe, saying, "Our members continue to sound the alarm about the untenable conditions in our building. It is past time for our collective concerns to be taken seriously."

They are calling for a COVID-19 safety plan and their demands include pausing in-person learning, outfitting teachers with adequate PPE, including N95 masks, and expanding testing to asymptomatic students.

As students face yet another challenging year, Health Commissioner Dr. Cheryl Bettigole says there is hope on the horizon.

"There is a little bit of a ray of hope. The last few days, we have seen what it looks like, at least temporarily, a leveling off of cases. Things do look a little more hopeful than a week ago," Bettigole said.

Changes to in-person learning are changing by the day, but the debate over school safety when it comes to COVID-19 continues.

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