DC schools to offer limited virtual option to those with qualified medical needs

D.C. schools are expecting a full return to the classroom this fall, but for those who need to stay home, the District is also offering a limited virtual option.

“The way that we are planning for next school year is that DCPS will offer a DCPS virtual academy, and that virtual academy will be separate from the traditional operations of the school,” D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Lewis Ferebee said during a committee roundtable with members of the D.C. Council Friday.

It will be for students who have a medical need to remain in remote learning. Families will need to take a form to their doctor to complete and return it to their school, Ferebee said.

One council member wanted to know if the absence of a vaccination amounted to a “qualified medical need.”

Ferebee said it does not. “That is not a qualifying medical need, based on the guidance that we receive from DC health, CDC and also, local and national pediatricians,” he said.

Interim State Superintendent of Education Shana Young clarified that it is a medical need of the student that requires not to be in the classroom, and asks several questions of the family and of the consulting physician, who has to sign for it, about the considerations made to determine that need.

Ferebee said the school system is not anticipating requiring the coronavirus vaccine for staff and students at this time, but staff and students are encouraged to take it.

Education officials are also encouraging families to get their other immunizations this summer.

“So while we focus a lot on the importance of the COVID-19 vaccine, we also want families to ensure that students received the appropriate vaccinations based on the age level to be admitted to school next year,” Ferebee said.

Anticipating a full return, teachers are expected to teach from their classrooms, but some teachers may also be teaching students who are part of the virtual academy.

“We will utilize teachers throughout school. So, you may have a teacher from your school, you may have a teacher from another school that is teaching in the DCPS virtual academy,” Ferebee said.

However, there may be unique instances when the concurrent simulcast model may be used for student who may have very specific course needs, for example if a student is taking an advanced class.

“So for example, if there’s a student that is taking AP chemistry, or another course that has a limited number of offerings, there may be a scenario in which they would have that class with other students that are in person,” Ferebee 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.

Abigail Constantino

Abigail Constantino started her journalism career writing for a local newspaper in Fairfax County, Virginia. She has a master’s degree in interactive journalism from American University and a master’s degree in English Literature from The George Washington University.

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