DC schools, teachers union move closer toward school reopening plan

There are indications that the tense, months-long negotiations between D.C. Public Schools and the Washington Teachers’ Union over plans to return to class are moving closer to a deal.

Multiple outlets report that the teachers union is considering a proposal that would outline the conditions that have to be met before the District’s students would return to school.

There are about 50 conditions that the union wants satisfied before agreeing to a plan. Many of those conditions, which primarily deal with health and safety, have already been met, according to the city.

With the second academic quarter underway, the agreement being considered would only bring in teachers willing to go back inside classrooms.

The city would begin planning to bring more students back into classrooms for the second semester starting in February.

At that point, DCPS could begin ordering more teachers back to classrooms if there are not enough who volunteer to return, but even that could be subject to further negotiation.

Ahead of all that, the school system would guide small groups that include a union representative through schools for a health and safety protocol inspection — although it stops short of allowing the union any say over whether agreed upon conditions are met.

The Washington Post reported that DCPS said it feels the union isn’t qualified to make that sort of determination.

In the coming days about 600 public school students will return to D.C. classrooms for what’s essentially supervised distance learning, with no actual teachers present in the classrooms. Original plans were for about 14,000 students to be part of that return.

There is still no concrete plan for the further reopening of schools, but DCPS Chancellor Lewis Ferebee has made clear that he wants to see more students back in the classroom later this academic year.

Some members of the D.C. Council have been highly critical of Ferebee’s efforts in recent weeks, and now some of the council members are turning to legislation that they said will increase transparency, collaboration and confidence in that process.

John Domen

John started working at WTOP in 2016 after having grown up in Maryland listening to the station as a child. While he got his on-air start at small stations in Pennsylvania and Delaware, he's spent most of his career in the D.C. area, having been heard on several local stations before coming to WTOP.

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