DC schools still considering how to plan for spring opening

Days before more than 90,000 D.C. public school students are due back in the classroom, the details of the opening are still being worked out, according to schools Chancellor Lewis Ferebee.

Under the current plans released by DCPS, students are to be tested for the coronavirus and the results must be posted by 4 p.m. on Tuesday. Students will need to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test before returning to school.

If they test positive or their results are not posted, students will not be allowed to attend classes on Wednesday.

Should a student who has not been tested turns up at a school and is not allowed into the building, what happens then?

“Our focus is on ensuring getting everybody tested. I know there’s lots of questions about what if this doesn’t occur or that doesn’t occur, but we’ll have an opportunity to assess where we are on Tuesday,” Ferebee told WTOP, saying that there are details that aren’t ready to be shared yet.

“We’re not sharing those details yet because we don’t know the positivity rate among staff and students. That is a determinant in how we will operate for Wednesday,” Ferebee said.

Earlier this week, Ferebee said it is possible that some schools would have to shift to online learning. He told WTOP Friday that would be done on a school-by-school basis.

Teachers and staff have been told to report to schools Monday, and they are required to report their coronavirus test results by 1 p.m. that day.

This fall, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said there would be funding to place a COVID-19 coordinator and one permanent substitute in each of the District’s 117 schools. Ferebee said positions have been filled and they will start in January.

“The dates on which they will start will vary because many of those individuals are still in our clearance process,” Ferebee said.

He did not say precisely how many have been filled, but he said schools could expect to see those staffers in school next month.

Under the school system’s plans, the COVID-19 coordinator would be tasked with helping principals with operations related to COVID-19 response. As for the substitutes, “The magnitude of support could vary by school,” Ferebee said.

There have been concerns about whether there can be an orderly return to classes on Wednesday, given the number of questions about what happens if and when students are turned away, but Ferebee said, “I believe we can get back to school and return safely on Wednesday. But that does require collaboration from our community members and families to help us do that.”

Ferebee added that health and safety are important, but “We know that our students are best served when they’re in our school buildings.”

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.

Kate Ryan

As a member of the award-winning WTOP News, Kate is focused on state and local government. Her focus has always been on how decisions made in a council chamber or state house affect your house. She's also covered breaking news, education and more.

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