Schools will be closed Jan. 3 and 4 to allow families to collect and test students for COVID prior to a return from the winter break, Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) announced Monday at a situational update.
Staff and families at DC Public schools can collect test kits from their school during those times. The tests are highly encouraged, said DCPS Chancellor Lewis Ferebee, but not required.
The school closures are part of a new COVID-19 action plan that Bowser announced Dec. 20. The plan includes a re-imposition of the state of emergency and of the mask mandate, starting 6 a.m. Tues, Dec. 20 and lasting until at least 6 a.m. Jan. 31.
Ferebee said that COVID testing is not required, but is highly encouraged. “The expectation is that all families will participate, but it is not a requirement,” the Chancellor said.
But Bowser and DCPS Chancellor Lewis Ferebee cautioned families not to expect a blanket statement about changes in school operations for after the winter break, saying each school would be examined on a case-by-case bases. “Keeping our schools open and our kids in challenging safe environment is a priority for our government,” Bowser said. “We don’t have a one-size-fits-all approach. Our school leaders are paying attention, monitoring and making decisions on a school-by-school basis that makes sense for the experience at that school.”
Ferebee said that most DCPS schools are not experiencing a COVID surge. “Where we see cases we respond accordingly, but that is not the posture of most of our schools,” Ferebee said Monday. “90 of our 119 schools have seen on average one case or less over the last ten days. We will continue to respond accordingly, but we know that school is the best place to be.”
Ferebee said decisions about individual school closures will be made based on guidance from health agencies but also on the ability to maintain continuity of instruction and capacity of operations. If there is a critical mass that needs to quarantine to the point that it impedes continuity of instruction they will transition a grade or a class temporarily to virtual, Ferebee said. Similarly if staff shortages impact the ability to maintain operations as they could, schools will transition to virtual.
Families can collect at-home testing kits from their DCPS or PUblic Charter school on Jan. 3 and 4th. Each school will have enough tests for all the staff, teachers and students, Ferebee said, although families can pick up a test from any DCPS school.