Dear DCPS Community,
Since the onset of the COVID-19 public health emergency, DC Public Schools has remained grounded in the firm belief that to best serve students furthest from opportunity, learning should take place in the classroom with clear safety precautions.
This is a responsibility we take very seriously, and we would not present school reopening plans that did not prioritize the health, safety, and well-being of our students, staff, and families. While our current reopening plans are focused on elementary schools, our health and safety commitments apply to anyone who may return to the classroom.
We cannot reopen our schools without our educators. DCPS has engaged in more than 100 hours of discussions with the Washington Teachers’ Union (WTU) around reopening plans, including health and safety matters. We will continue to act in good faith with everyone, including the WTU, to ensure students are able to access high-quality instruction and the resources they need and deserve.
Earlier today, I joined Mayor Bowser to detail how DCPS will implement all health and safety precautions for school reopening outlined by DC Health, as well as additional safeguards recommended by our union partners. You can review our full presentation here (begins on slide 7) and I am highlighting some key points below.
Health & Safety Update
Last week, we shared information for students and families about health and safety routines for in-person learning. Here is a brief update:
School-Based Health Centers are open at 7 locations for immunization appointments.
DCPS is making a $24 million investment to increase air change rates and filtration provided by HVAC systems to reduce any airborne concentrations of COVID-19 and related transmission risks in every school. This includes 3,000 mobile medical grade HEPA filters which will be placed in every classroom. Read a brief overview on this work, as well as a detailed memo.
Our $3.6 million investment in Personal Protective Equipment includes items like masks for students and face shields and masks for teachers.
As part of our COVID-19 Response Protocol, schools will provide on-site rapid testing for symptomatic individuals and follow-up PCR testing for anyone who receives a positive rapid test result. To support staff with getting tested regularly, DCPS staff members working in person will be prioritized at all District public testing sites.
Staff Readiness for Term 2
We know that COVID-19 impacts us all in different ways. When it comes to work responsibilities, DCPS is prepared to go beyond federally protected leave and federal and local accommodations to provide additional flexibility for employees requesting consideration for virtual staffing assignments due to personal circumstances.
We recognize that mid-year transitions are challenging, and we believe this shift to offer some in-person learning in Term 2 will allow us to provide critical supports to students who need it most. As we prepare for these changes, there will be a modification to the academic calendar for elementary students. On November 4 and 5, grades PK3 to 5 will have asynchronous instruction so elementary staff can have two additional Professional Development days. Friday, November 6, remains a day off for students and a split records-PD day for all staff.
Term 2 Schedules for Elementary Schools
School leaders are working hard to configure Term 2 schedules, balancing classroom space and staff availability, in order to share information with elementary school families ahead of November.
Teacher Schedules – Across all DCPS elementary schools, we are planning to have one classroom per grade with a teacher leading in-person instruction in Term 2, pending educator availability. This means that elementary students – whether they will be learning in school or at home – may have a different general education teacher for this term.
Class Sizes – All in-person classroom spaces will meet social distancing requirements and may enroll up to 8 students in PK3, 10 students in PK4 and Kindergarten, and 11 students in grades 1-5. Virtual class sizes may increase due to teachers transitioning from virtual to in-person instruction.
Family Notices – In-person learning classroom notifications will be sent to families receiving a seat tomorrow, and CARE classroom notifications will begin next week. Elementary student schedules will be finalized and shared with families the week of November 2 by their school.
What elementary school learning model is best for your student, and what is the likelihood you will receive an in-person seat?
Visit dcpsreopenstrong.com/schedule/selection-process to check out a new feature that walks families through the Term 2 options available to them.
Starting tomorrow, families who are selected for an in-person seat will receive an email from [email protected] and a phone call from their school. If you are matched for a seat, you must accept it as soon as possible. Accepting your seat requires calling your school and confirming that you want the seat.
If you have questions about the student selection process, please do not hesitate to email us at the address above.
Lewis D. Ferebee, Ed.D.