D.C. Public Schools will have an all-virtual start to the school year, officials said during an update Thursday.
“Our top priority and planning for this school year is, of course, the health and well-being of our students, staff, families and community,” Deputy Mayor of Education Paul Kihn said.
“We are moving forward with an all-virtual start to the school year for students in pre-K through the 12th grade, through Term 1, until Nov. 6.”
The health and safety of students was cited as a key reason for the Aug. 31 all-virtual start.
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Term 1, from Aug 31 through Nov 6, will be all virtual. pic.twitter.com/rXWfKMgkEE
— Mayor Muriel Bowser (@MayorBowser) July 30, 2020
Kihn added that the school system would continue to work on options for in-person learning for Term 2 for families and students who need it.
He addressed the digital divide faced by many students and families in the District.
“We understand the concerns families and our community have about access to technology. In fact, we share those concerns because we understand the reality of inequality in our city,” Kihn said.
“That is, in large part what makes me so concerned about having students out of the classroom for a month at a time. But, we are committed to getting every student who needs a device or internet access the tools they need to successfully participate in virtual learning,” he said.
Schools Chancellor Lewis Ferebee said D.C. has been collecting data and, so far, they have more than 13,000 respondents for the city’s technology survey.
“We are currently seeing about 44% of our students have indicated that they do not have a device or access to a device at home,” Ferebee said.
D.C. parents can fill out the DCPS technology survey online or call their schools to tell the city what their technology needs are.
Health Director Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt warned that the city has seen a decline in children’s immunizations and vaccinations. She urged parents to make sure kids are up to date, even if they aren’t returning to school for in-person education.
“We still have the push that will be going for children to have their vaccines that are required for school in the District of Columbia, and we’ll be still communicating to parents and families around the desire to have children, this flu season, vaccinated for influenza,” Nesbitt said.
“We still want them to work to have their children brought up to date and to have their children ready for school in the same way that they were making plans for in person school to resume on Aug. 31.”
Asked about students returning to classrooms for virtual teaching, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser seemed to take a shot at the teachers’ union.
“You know, I’m just going to speak candidly, if we don’t have teachers who want to come in person, we would have to find another set of adults who want to come in person,” Bowser said.
“And we will, if the chancellor comes and says, ‘This is what we need for our kids in the building,’ and that won’t be the whole student body, but it may be some set of kids that need a place to come.”
Later Thursday, Washington Teachers’ Union President Elizabeth Davis said in a statement, “I’d like to thank the mayor and chancellor for putting the health of our teachers, students and communities at the forefront and delaying the resumption of in-person learning to begin the 2020-2021 school year.”
“The District of Columbia’s educators and students are eager to return to our classrooms and schools,” Davis also said. “We all miss our school communities — they are so much more than places to learn.”
In an earlier tweet, the union said, “DC Teachers are willing to return to in-person learning, if health and safety concerns are addressed to ensure the health of our teachers, students and communities. In the meantime, we’re committed to ensuring great virtual learning for our students.”
DC coronavirus numbers
The District reported 58 new coronavirus cases Thursday, bringing the total to 12,057.
D.C. reported no new deaths Thursday. The death toll stands at 584.
Track the District’s coronavirus data online.
Below are maps of coronavirus cases by ward, neighborhood and community spread (click to enlarge).