D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced plans to spend an additional $22 million to support COVID-19 mitigation measures in city schools on Thursday, an initiative that also creates a position in each school for someone to oversee coronavirus-related operations.
In a news release, Bowser said the funding will be used to provide funding “sufficient for an additional staff person for every charter school, floating supervisory nurses, and stipends for school-based staff supporting the COVID-19 response.”
More specifically, the spending will allow each school to be assigned a COVID Strategy & Logistics Coordinator, according to a letter Chancellor Lewis Ferebee sent to school staff.
The announcement comes as parents, educators and council members have expressed frustration in recent weeks with COVID-19 protocols in schools, citing inconsistent testing, a lack of communication and issues with building infrastructure, among other things.
It also came a day after the Washington Teachers’ Union said it passed a no-confidence resolution in city leadership for the way officials have handled school reopening.
“We know that the best place for our students to learn and thrive is in the classroom, which is why we’ve made significant investments in safely opening all of our schools,” Bowser said in a statement. “After a strong reopening, we are focused on supporting our school communities as they continue to implement robust mitigation strategies. In addition to these critical investments, we need every eligible resident to get vaccinated to protect themselves, our students, and our families.”
The new coordinator will be tasked with supporting contact tracing, school notifications related to the coronavirus and at-school testing operations, according to the release. A Bowser administration official told WTOP that the extra personnel should help take some of the burden off school leaders when it comes to COVID-19 safety protocols.
The funding will also be used expand the DCPS COVID-19 response team, Ferebee said.
At-large Council member Christina Henderson told WTOP this week that tasks such as contact tracing have become the responsibility of school administrators in addition to their traditional academic duties.
Ferebee also wrote that schools will be assigned a full-time substitute teacher “to provide more consistent substitute support.” To add to its substitute pool, the city is also planning to increase financial incentives for former DCPS staff members to return as substitute teachers.
“I want to recognize again your hard work in providing a welcoming and safe environment for our students,” Ferebee wrote. “Every member of the DCPS family has been instrumental in our efforts to keep our community safe.”
In the release, the city said the school system has a “robust mitigation strategy based on three key areas: prevent, screen and inform.” The school system has been tracking coronavirus prevalence in schools online.
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