Mayor Bowser (D) and District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) Chancellor Lewis D. Ferebee announced a multi-stage plan to welcome students back to schools beginning Nov. 9 starting with pre-kindergarten and elementary school students, as well as K to 8 education campuses.
Students will be chosen through a random selection process but will prioritize students experiencing homelessness, special education students, English language learners and students designated as at-risk, respectively and then all other students.
Ferebee said offers for in-person classroom seats are expected to be made by Oct. 23, and offers for CARE seats should be made by Oct. 30.
He added that, amid these reopenings, families will “always have the option to continue learning at home.” Whatever choices families make, they should commit to sticking with it through term 2. Term 3 begins Feb. 1, 2021.
Ferebee said that while the District will be able to provide an in person option for nearly two thirds of the elementary school students in DCPS, it cannot ensure every student is able to take advantage of this program.
“There will be one classroom at each grade level at every elementary school,” Ferebee said. “We estimate that we can serve approximately 21,000 students between the in person learning classrooms and the CARE classrooms. However, we cannot guarantee a seat for all students.”
DCPS classes have been entirely virtual through the first term. The District has provided devices to 29,900 students, launched the #ReopenStrong parent university program, opened student support centers and provided more than 33,000 meals served to students. On Nov. 9, the public schools will transition to term two which will bring back some elementary students to in-person classes.
The ‘term two’ reopening is geared toward younger students and students with known opportunity gaps in order to minimize learning loss during the pandemic. In-person learning will be limited and students in special education classrooms will be prioritized.
DCPS will also launch Canvas Academic and Real Engagement (CARE) classrooms; spaces for students to learn in small cohorts under the supervision of non-teacher staff members. This program will allow students to socialize with classmates and continue their virtual learning in the classroom setting. The preschool through first grade program begins Nov. 16 and the second through fifth grade program begins Nov. 30.
Both programs will run five days a week with a half day on Wednesdays.
“It’s important to note that we have thought through every aspect of the day for our students,” Ferebee said. “For example, there are designated spaces for health screening and verification and temperature checks. We are also designating spaces for children to sanitize their hands and receive a face covering for (that) day.”
Term 3 will welcome back secondary students in grades six through twelve who are on a semester system. The Chancellor discussed the decision to maintain a virtual format for all secondary students and emphasized the importance of consistency and continuity of learning virtually during this time.
Bowser emphasized the importance of the implementation of these programs and expressed excitement about these new learning opportunities for elementary students.
“This distance learning is not working for a lot of our kids,” Bowser said. “It doesn’t allow us to reach our young people in the same way.”
DCPS is hosting Term 2 Reopening Virtual Information Session Tuesday, Oct. 6 at 5:30 p.m. via Microsoft Teams. Join using the link bit.ly/dcpsreopenstrong.
There will be a Public Health Panel on Oct. 14 from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m., also on Microsoft Teams. Join using the link www.eventbrite.com/e/dcps-term-2-reopen-strong-virtual-public-health-panel. For questions or interpretation assistance please contact [email protected]
Sarah Payne is a History and Neuroscience student at The University of Michigan interning with HillRag. She writes for and serves as an assistant news editor for Michigan’s student newspaper, The Michigan Daily. You can reach her at [email protected]