Parents, teachers push back on DC’s plan to reopen schools to more students

Parents and teachers in D.C. are pushing back on the city’s plan to reopen schools next month to about 7,000 elementary school students.

Though some parents are happy their children will have the opportunity to return to in-person learning, others worry about those kids who are not getting the same chance, and who also may lose support to make the reopening plan work.

D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Lewis Ferebee announced the plan Oct. 5 to return some kids to in-person learning and some to a hybrid model, and also allow parents to choose whether their student continues to learn from home.

“For my two in DCPS, it’s never-ending what’s going to change next,” said father David Pinchotti, who lives in Ward 6.

It’s possible under the DCPS reopening plan that his fifth-grader could be one of 14,000 students who get an invitation to a CARES classroom where she could continue to learn virtually but do so in a supervised setting with classmates. But to do that, his elder daughter’s middle school has shared that she’ll likely lose support staff who will be overseeing the CARES classrooms, he said.

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“The plan right now from what we’re hearing is that they might be reassigning high school and middle teachers to effectively become babysitters in the CARES classroom — and that’s robbing Peter to pay Paul,” Pinchotti said.

Facing increased virtual class sizes, lost support for older students and instability for staff, D.C. needs to develop a stronger plan that works for the majority of students, said Joe Weeden, with the Washington Teachers’ Union.

“And work with local school communities to truly identify those who need help. Not a top-down approach that treats all wards equally,” Weeden said.

It’s a question of equity among grades and neighborhoods, he added.

As part of its priority to provide in-person instruction for the city’s youngest learners, DCPS has said in a statement, “We’ve called upon the entire community to be part of our Term 2 learning models.” The first group of students will return to some classrooms Nov. 9.

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