WASHINGTON - On Monday, D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Dr. Lewis Ferebee announced a three-option plan that will include elementary school students returning to some type of in-person instruction when DCPS’ second term begins on November 9.
Mayor Muriel Bowser and the chancellor discussed plans before giving a tour of what some of the classroom set-ups look like inside the Samuel E. Wheatley Education Campus in Northeast D.C.'s Trinidad neighborhood.
Certain elementary school students will be prioritized for return, this includes those students most at risk, homeless, English-language learners and students with special needs. The students will be separated in to small groups or cohorts of 5-11 students.
The first option is in-person instruction classrooms. The daily schedule will be similar to a typical school day – with Wednesday being a half day. There will also be one in-person classroom per grade level at every DCPS elementary school.
The second option will have room for 14,000 seats for what’s called, “Student CARE Classrooms.” CARE stands for: canvas academics and real engagement. This will involve a staff member monitoring and advising students as they complete their virtual assignments in a classroom setting, instead of at home. The staff member may not be a teacher.
Lastly, Chancellor Ferebee estimates another 9,000 students will continue on option three, a continuation of virtual learning home.
We’re told these numbers are based off of a summer survey asking how many parents felt comfortable with a return to in-person instruction. Dr. Ferebee said it would be premature to answer whether there are enough DCPS teachers to carry out the plan. A survey teachers were asked to fill out on whether they would or could return had its deadline extended to Tuesday after members reported site glitches on Friday and Monday.
The Washington Teacher’s Union slammed DC leaders in a statement after the announcement. WTU President Elizabeth Davis accused DC Mayor Muriel Bowser and Chancellor Ferebee of playing “Hunger Games” with teachers.
“We want the process to be transparent. He says that he does too. He’s suggesting that all of the schools are COVID-ready. All we’re asking him to do is please provide the evidence to parents and teachers and other school workers who want to see that evidence,” Davis said in a phone interview with FOX 5.
The union leader claimed WTU was not informed of the details in Monday’s announcement beforehand. The union has also been asking for the chancellor to sign a Memorandum of Agreement on school operations and a safety checklist, that has not yet happened.
Dr. Ferebee said DCPS would be conducting a walk through with the Teacher’s Union before returning on November 9th.
“We’ll continue to collaborate with the Washington Teacher’s Union and our other partners on how we accomplish that. Today we wanted families to know what our expectations are,” said Dr. Ferebee.
Two of the classrooms Dr. Ferebee showed inside Wheatley on Monday included younger and older elementary classroom set-up for in-person instruction. The third was a “Student CARE” instruction room. All three provided markers showing what a 6ft distance is.
Reporters were told PPE will be provided and were shown how hand sanitizer will be available throughout the classrooms and hallways. Use of outdoor space and playgrounds will be scheduled.
The Department of Public Works Director Chris Geldart said they are also repairing and upgrading HVAC units at 117-buildings – starting with the elementary schools and units have been purchased in rooms whose buildings don’t have a full HVAC system.
There is also a plan to have students and parents fill a survey at home before going to their school building. The survey will ask, among other questions, what type of symptoms the child may be feeling. Temperature checks will be done outside before students enter. If a child or staff member tests positive, Dr. Ferebee says the whole school will be notified. If they are in a cohort, that cohort will be told to quarantine for 14 days.
DCPS says it plans to send the classrooms seat offers out by October 23rd. Mayor Bowser said parents should have child immunization records ready to be submitted before then.
DCPS has also scheduled a virtual town hall-style event for Tuesday, October 6th at 5:30 p.m. to provide more details on returning to school.