While we long to return to our school buildings, we are concerned about the safety of our students, school staff, and communities. On October 5th, Mayor Bowser announced a plan to return 21,000 students to our elementary school buildings in the coming ahead. Just days later, she extended our city’s public health emergency through the end of the year. Her plans to reopen schools will needlessly expose thousands to unnecessary risks and disrupt student learning.
The Mayor did not meaningfully involve principals, teachers and school communities in the development of the plan to reopen schools. The Mayor’s plan does not communicate how school buildings will be made safe, nor how the plan will not lead to disruption of existing distance learning.
Only when a plan is developed with meaningful involvement of those most impacted by school openings and when data are shared about how the safety of school communities will be maintained, should schools reopen to in-person learning. We should start with a focus on equity while protecting the privacy of students. We should start with a targeted group of classrooms to learn what works and what doesn’t. Then adjust and expand what is working in a safe and deliberate manner.
The Washington Teachers’ Union asks you to join us in signing the attached letter to Mayor Bowser, which we’ll present to her and members of the City Council, on October 27.
Please Review Our Petition and Sign Below.
Mayor Bowser -
It is your responsibility, during the current health pandemic, to ensure the health and physical safety of those you serve. While I join with those who wish we could reopen our schools to in-person learning, we can do so only when it’s safe.
The proposal put forth by your administration to reopen DC Public Schools in November, announced just days before you extended the District’s Public Health Emergency through the end of the year, needlessly disrupts student learning and puts thousands of students, school staff, and community members at risk of exposure to COVID-19.
I stand with educators and the Washington Teachers Union (WTU) in asking:
1. Decisions on reopening schools to in-person learning must involve those most impacted by the decisions, be data driven, and emphasize equity. DC Public Schools should utilize recently launched 'student support centers' to gather data on what works. Working with Local School Advisory Teams (LSATs) and other impacted stakeholders in each school, DCPS should develop school specific plans to serve additional students, where practical, prioritizing those furthest from opportunity. Only after using the data gathered from these school programs, and when health conditions allow, should DC Public Schools should move towards a larger reopening.
2. Decisions on reopening schools to in-person learning must put health and safety first. DC Public Schools must provide detailed information on HVAC systems, testing the air quality for particulates in all classrooms that will be utilized by students for the remainder of the 2020-2021 school year. DCPS must provide detailed information on the purchase and distribution of PPE for individual schools and other repairs / enhancements to common areas, medical suites, etc are being performed to ensure student and school staff safety. Additionally, DCPS must provide detailed information on what has and can be done to maximize the use of outdoor spaces for learning. Clear protocols must be developed to ensure immediate public reporting on incidences of infection and spread in schools and school communities; DCPS must certify that all individuals in contact with students have required background checks and health screenings in place.
3. Decisions on reopening schools to in-person learning must minimize disruptions to existing virtual learning and prioritize the socio-emotional health of students. DC Public Schools shall engage Local School Advisory Teams (LSATs), teachers and parents, in devising staffing plans that work for them and their school communities, while minimizing disruptions to teacher-student relationships and prioritizing social-emotional health.
I stand with educators and the Washington Teachers Union (WTU) in their decision to engage only in distance learning until health protections set by the CDC and OSSE are fully met and implemented in collaboration with WTU and school communities. We demand transparency and believe we should return to in-person learning only when it is safe.