The District released more information Thursday on plans to return to in-person learning for select students for the second term at D.C. Public Schools.
Those plans include $31 million in safety measures for schools, $3.6 million for additional personal protective equipment, $4.5 million in building readiness and $24 million for HVAC enhancements.
DCPS Chancellor Lewis Ferebee called the return to school an “urgent mission,” and said elementary students are being prioritized.
He highlighted an education gap hitting D.C.’s youngest students. According to a situational report, there has been a 9 percentage point reduction in students meeting or exceeding beginning-of-year literacy benchmarks, and a 22 percentage point reduction in kindergarten students meeting or exceeding benchmarks.
“We need to ensure … that we fulfill our mission of responding to the needs of our students and our families, and for those students who need instruction and learning in school provided,” Ferebee said.
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“This is important because we know that those students who are not reading on grade-level are much more likely not to graduate on time, and it’s critical that our students are reading on grade-level by grade three.”
Starting Friday, parents and families of selected D.C. elementary students will start getting calls and emails about the offer to return to school for in-person learning, Ferebee said. They have two days to respond. The offer expires in five days.
“We want families to respond as soon as possible. If we’re not able to reach a family, we’ll continue to reach out. But, if we do not have contact with the family, the offer will expire in five days,” he said.
CARE classroom seat offers will start going out Oct. 30.
Ferebee said safety remains a key concern. “We’re also taking health and safety precaution very seriously as outlined by D.C. Health, as well as safeguards that are been recommended by CDC and our union partners,” he added.
“For facility readiness, we have a huge investment in our HVAC enhancement.”
The $24 million investment allows classrooms to have a mobile HVAC unit that includes ultraviolet light and also medical-grade filters and ventilation features.
“We are purchasing and procuring over 3,000 of these mobile devices, which allows us to cover approximately 1,000 square feet. And it’s important to note that the typical classroom ranges from about 700 to 800 square feet,” Ferebee said.
He added that DCPS has procured face coverings and safety supplies.
“We already have distributed to schools over 1.5 million disposable masks, over 320,000 child-sized masks and over 80,000 commuter masks to help with special population, along with installing over 87,000 face shields within our school buildings,” Ferebee said.
Other changes to classrooms include a new “Safety First Space Design,” seen below:
The city provided an example of what a readiness checklist would look like, seen below:
D.C. said it will provide rapid on-site testing for symptomatic individuals at schools. Follow-up PCR testing will be done for anyone who receives a positive rapid test result.
In-person DCPS staff will be prioritized at public testing sites.
Classrooms for pre-K to fifth grade will open to students Nov. 9.
CARE classrooms for pre-K3 to first grade open the week of Nov. 16.
CARE classrooms open for students in second through fifth grade the week of Nov. 30.
DC coronavirus numbers
D.C. reported 39 new coronavirus cases Thursday, bringing the total to 16,537.
No new deaths were reported. So far, 642 District residents have lost their lives to the virus.
Track the District’s data online. Below are maps of cases by ward and neighborhood.