Reopening of Public Schools in D.C. Delayed Again


At an Oct. 29 assembly, over 93 percent of Washington Teachers’ Union members voted against the planned reopening, 11 days later, of Washington, D.C., public schools. A press release issued on Nov. 2 stated that the union had expressed: “No confidence in Mayor Muriel Bowser, Chancellor Lewis Ferebee, and the DC Public Schools plan to reopen our schools to in-person learning on November 9th, as it currently stands.”

An attempt by DCPS administrators, the mayor and the union to resolve their differences collapsed on Oct. 30, according to multiple sources. Teachers’ Union President Elizabeth Davis encouraged teachers to take a mental health day and call in sick on Monday, Nov. 2, forcing the cancelation of online classes. The “sick-in” was to be a show for “solidarity against the District’s reopening plans,” according to union spokespeople.

Early that day, Nov. 2, Ferebee announced that the school system had canceled its plan to bring some elementary students back to classrooms. Secondary schools, including Duke Ellington School of the Arts at 35th and R Streets NW, were not scheduled to reopen until January.

Georgetown’s Hyde-Addison Elementary School at 3219 O St. NW was to open on Nov. 9 with one class of 11 students in each grade from pre-K to fifth, with a daily schedule similar to a typical school day, four and a half days a week. Priority for those seats was to go, first, to students experiencing homelessness and others with intensive needs; second, to students receiving special education services or who are English learners; and third, to those designated “at-risk.” Siblings in the same school also would have received preference, according to DCPS.

A second in-person option that was to start on Nov. 9 is called CARE, Canvas Academics and Real Engagement, providing for “small-group in-person classrooms where students were to have supervision for the school day from a caring adult who is not their teacher.” Children of DCPS teachers were guaranteed a place in the CARE program.

But Ferebee and Bowser acknowledged that they did have enough personnel to reopen schools at that point, even on a limited basis. The union said it would withhold its support until teachers’ safety demands were met and teachers and parents included in the discussions about how and when to reopen.

Neither were the elected representatives of the DC State Board of Education involved in the process. Allister Chang, newly elected Ward 2 representative on the State Board, has called for more transparency from DCPS in its decision-making.

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