Start of in-person elementary school learning postponed

Andrew Dong

DCPS pushed the in-person return date for elementary schools to February 1 following a teacher “mental health day,” on November 2. 

On November 2, DCPS Chancellor Lewis Ferebee sent an email to the DCPS community announcing that all students enrolled in DCPS would start Term 2 on November 9 online, contrary to plans released on October 5 marking Term 2 as the return to elementary in-person date.  

Canvas Academics and Real Engagement (CARE) classes are to be available at 35 elementary schools on November 18. These classes will contain 600 plus students total in the first phase participating in virtual classes while being supervised by a “DCPS elementary school staff or an employee of a trusted school partner,” Ferebee said.

As for families who had already accepted a spot in the in-person instruction classrooms for Term 2, Ferebee assured that “[They] will have the option to join a CARE Classroom first,” and that DCPS ”will outreach to additional families with seat offers [and] be in contact with families directly on next steps.”

“We commit to supporting our students, families, teachers, and staff in our urgent mission to safely reopen schools. We have heard feedback from many in our community about ReopenStrong plans, and we will use this moment to adjust our timeline and staffing plans for reopening,” Ferebee states within the email. 

Alycia Kantor, who is a mother of a 1st and 4th grader at Janney Elementary School, says that she would have “considered” sending her kids to school given the correct health and safety measures were in place but believes “pushing reopening to a later date was probably the right decision [because] DCPS did not seem ready to implement reopening safely in a way that would benefit the majority of students.” However, Kantor also mentioned she is fortunate to have a “job she can do remotely, although a lot less efficiently with kids running around,” while other families may not be as fortunate, having to split their time between taking care of their children and working. 

On October 5, DCPS announced via a virtual situational update that DCPS elementary schools would reopen at the start of term 2 in-person for one classroom per grade. The classes planned to have less than 11 students each, with the daily schedule following that of a school day. Special education classes were also planned to be in-person. 

An anonymous teacher at Bunker Hill Elementary school said they were “very excited” upon hearing the start date had been pushed back, and added they “don’t think we should come back until next year.” They have also heard that at least one DCPS CARE teacher has “contracted Covid from a kid.”  

Some of the feedback Ferebee mentioned includes outcry from the Washington Teacher’s Union (WTU) over the lack of communication between teachers and the DCPS central office. Teachers organized rallies and “mental health days” to show solidarity and oppose the reopening plans. The “mental health day,” November 2, was the same day Ferebee announced the changes, which was the cause for the reconsideration of the reopening dates and plans.