DC announces start date for public schools; virtual summer school, camp-at-home offered

The Lincoln Memorial stands empty, Friday, May 22, 2020, in Washington. The District of Columbia is under a stay-home order for all residents in an effort to slow the spread of the new coronavirus. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

D.C. made it official Friday: Public schools in the District will start the new year Aug. 31 — either in-person or from home.

“We have seen, over the course of this pandemic, an extraordinary collaboration,” among schools and other educational institutions, Deputy Mayor for Education John Kihn said during a Friday news conference.

He said the Reopen DC task force heard from parents and families who “really value the stability that could be provided in any way, shape or form as we look forward to a relatively uncertain fall for the schools,” Kihn said.

Kihn noted that the health and safety of students, faculty and teachers in the buildings is a primary concern.That could mean DCPS might not be able to accommodate all students in the school buildings at the same time.

There is also the issue of scheduling.

“We are engaged in those discussions for the very purpose of seeing whether we can coordinate and align on scheduling,” Kihn said.

The specifics of school-week scheduling will be released later after focus groups and a survey of families so that DCPS can evaluate the options.

“Our hope is that through that process, we will be able to build that kind of coherence and stability for families,” Kihn said.

More Coronavirus news

Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.

Virtual summer school

During Friday’s news conference, D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Lewis Ferebee said the city will be offering “a virtual learning experience” this summer for students from kindergarten through high school.

“For our K through 8 students, this will mean an enrichment opportunity with a focus on literacy and mathematics and an opportunity for students to have hands on experiences at home,” Ferebee said.

High school students can continue to take courses, as can middle grade students.

“In addition, for those students that need credit recovery, this will be an opportunity to earn additional credits. We will also provide our extended year program for students with disability along with supports for students for English language learners,” Ferebee said.


D.C.’s Department of Parks and Recreation is offering a camp-at-home program for around 5,000 District kids.

DPR Acting Director Delano Hunter described it as “a blend of self directed activities, digital content and some online engagement.”

“Think about arts and crafts, culinary activities, science experiment experiments and outdoor exploration,” he said. “This offering will be free to District residents.”

Hunter added that if D.C. is able to enter into Phase 2 of reopening, there will be an in-person “fun and sun” camp.

“We anticipate serving 30 to 140 campers through two-week engagements,” he said. “his will have a heavy outdoor emphasis on socially distant activities and games across 27 locations.”

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Reopening checklist for restaurants and businesses

The District has also compiled a “reopening checklist” for restaurants and businesses in anticipation of a Phase 1 reopening.

The move comes on the heels of a pilot program the city implemented to analyze the effects of reopening on a small scale.

“And what we learned from that experience … is retailers need a little bit of time to think through what they need to get ready to reopen,” D.C. Deputy Mayor for Planning and Development John Falcicchio said.

“So we’ve put together a checklist, which is a ‘before you open’ checklist for retailers, which allows them to think through a couple different parts of reopening.”

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“All of this is in order to give these businesses a head start on thinking through what they’ll need to open,” Falcicchio said.

“We also have asked the EARS (Educational and Academic Retail Shops) participants, the pilot program participants, to give us some data about how they are doing in terms of sales and operations, and additional costs or concerns that they had when they reopened,” he said. “All of this with an eye on — if the health conditions continue to improve — allowing more retailers to do the same in the first phase.

Voting locations open across D.C.

Mayor Muriel Bowser announced the opening of in-person voting locations throughout the District ahead of election day on June 2.

Each location will be open from 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. until June 1 — except Memorial Day, when they will be closed. On June 2, locations will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

“We are reminding you to wear a mask or face covering, or there will also be ones available for you at the vote centers if you arrive without one,” Bowser said.

District residents can also request an absentee ballot at the Vote 4 DC website or download, fill out print a separate form from the Board of Elections website.

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D.C. coronavirus numbers

The District reported 105 new cases Friday, bringing the total number to 7,893.

There were also six more COVID-19 related deaths. To date, 418 residents have lost their lives to the virus.

Black/African American residents continue to be hit hard by the virus. They make up 47% of all District coronavirus cases (3,683), and 77% of the city’s deaths (320).

But community spread continues to decline, according to D.C. officials. The District has now seen a sustained 12-day drop.

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An announcement on trends is expected Tuesday.

Below are maps of coronavirus infections by ward and neighborhood.

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Will Vitka

William Vitka is a Digital Writer/Editor for WTOP.com. He's been in the news industry for over a decade. Before joining WTOP, he worked for CBS News, Stuff Magazine, The New York Post and wrote a variety of books—about a dozen of them, with more to come.

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