DCPS teachers completed a survey to assess reopening availability

Deirdre de Leeuw den Bouter

In the last week of September, DCPS sent teachers a survey regarding their availability to return to in-person learning. The survey included four options with three of them being 100 percent virtual options and the fourth regarding volunteering to go back in-person. 

The questionnaire was made to gauge the number of teachers willing, uninclined, or unable to return to in-person education. According to Alex Jacoby, head of the math department at Wilson, the survey was mostly asking, “if you don’t think you can return in person, which category of exemption would you fall under?” 

Teachers believed the survey could not thoroughly convey educators’ availability, because occasionally there were questions that only allowed them to pick one option, when more than one option could apply to an individual.  The options were the following:  1). Being considered for the 100% virtual assignment because the candidate is themselves at risk for COVID-19 due to age, health issues, has an at-risk house member, or has children doing virtual learning. 2). Being considered for the 100% virtual assignment because they have no access to public transportation or are a sole caretaker of a dependent(s). 3). Currently do not qualify for 100 percent virtual based on the first two options but would like to be considered for remaining virtual on a first come, first serve basis. 4). Does not qualify for 100 percent virtual but is interested in returning to in-person work for fewer than 5 days of service (not full time).  For options one and two, documentation proving their selected reason for unavailability was required. 

While the survey was not mandatory, it stated, “Any school-based employee who does not respond by the deadline will be considered available for in-person work.” Additionally, according to Murch fifth grade teacher, Kelly Crabtree, there were timestamp malfunctions meaning that some teachers could submit their survey within five minutes while others had to wait for hours, affecting the “first come first serve” process. 

Crabtree selected option 3, “One of my colleagues selected in-person but to the central office, it is basically the same thing in terms of selection.” Crabtree is likely to be considered for in-person learning with Murch.

It’s not known how much DCPS takes these answers into consideration, however, the vast majority of educators are expressing their opinion on this questionnaire and do not want to return to in-person. When asked if the latest surveys accurately conveyed his feelings on returning, Jacoby said, “they’re not designed [nor] intended to, nor is it realistic for DCPS to process the thoughts and feelings of all of its stakeholders in their infinite variety and nuance.” 

In a Washington Teachers Union unfair labor practice complaint regarding the return to In-Person Work guidelines, the Staffing Assignment Survey was mentioned. Following, it was ruled on by the Public Employees Relations Board, concluding that the survey must be rescinded since DCPS refused to bargain with WTU regarding reopening planning.