In-Person Learning to Resume at D.C. Schools on Feb. 1

“Children can’t wait. They’ve already lost so much,” Mayor Muriel Bowser said earlier this month, as D.C. officials confidently announced that they can bring some students back to classrooms on Feb. 1.

“But even as the DC Public School officials project the opening date of in-person learning, it is actually up to individual schools and school principals to decide exactly how and when according to their demand and need,” Allister Chang, Ward 2’s representative on the District’s State Board of Education, told The Georgetowner.

While every school is expected to serve at least 25 percent of its student body in person, some schools will have students on campus on a full-time basis, others part of the time and others only for special needs, such as counseling.

DCPS has been informing individual teachers if they will be working in person and offering slots in classrooms to parents, according to Chancellor Lewis Ferebee. “It’s a grass-roots process of conversation and dialogue,” Ferebee said in an online briefing on the evening of Jan. 27. “It involved school faculty, students and parents. As a result, each school’s opening plans are quite different, many with multiple models within one school.”

As of Jan. 27, all public schools in the District had completed their plans for teacher-led, in-person learning for those who choose it, four to four and-a-half days a week, according to DCPS officials. Packets are being sent to all families with enrolled students explaining how to register. The initial preference groups, including children experiencing homelessness, special-needs students and English-language learners, still prevail.

The Feb. 1 opening day is the first specific date to be set by school officials since a deal that lays out safety measures and teaching requirements for each reopened building was made in mid-December with the Washington Teachers’ Union.

“Still, the vast majority of teachers are not confident that it is safe to return to the city’s school buildings,” said Joe Weedon, Ward 6 rep on the state board. According to DCPS, seven percent of the city’s teacher workforce volunteered for in-person learning. If student demand exceeds the number of volunteer teachers, the school system will bring back teachers who do not have medical or other exemptions from in-person teaching.

A big question for the State Board of Education at its first meeting on Jan. 7 was how are learning assessments to be made and tests assigned once the schools are open, Chang told The Georgetowner. “Because of the lost year, our most comprehensive assessment data is from 2019 and not relevant to the year of shutdowns,” he said.

Ferebee acknowledged at the Jan. 27 meeting that this was an issue DCPS will be addressing.


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