All students to return in-person in August

Hadley Carr and Leah Carrier

All DCPS students are expected to return to in-person learning for the 2021-2022 school year.

“[DCPS] schools will continue to implement a system of layered protections to ensure we are able to safely offer in-person programming and all our district’s facility space will be fully maximized,” said Chancellor Ferebee in an announcement on April 8. 

While safety measures for the school year have not been made official, Principal Martin says an Operations Handbook for the 2021-22 is in the works. Given the recent relaxing of social distancing requirements in term 4—from six feet to three feet—Martin anticipates that social distancing will no longer be a requirement. She does suspect that mask wearing will continue to be mandated.

Along with pending safety guidelines, all students must meet certain immunization requirements in order to enroll. Given the developing circumstances surrounding COVID-19 vaccine availability, Martin speculates that the vaccination will not be added to the 2021-22 list.

COVID-19 precautions may also be challenged by the projected enrollment of 2,010 students for the upcoming school year. Martin notes that while fewer students might be easier to manage, she adds, “if we don’t make our enrollment benchmark [of 2,010 students], [Wilson loses] some of [its] budget.” In order to meet the metric, Wilson will have to recruit ambitiously to regain DCPS students who may have transferred to private or charter schools as a result of the pandemic.

As the school transitions to in-person learning in the 2021-22 school year, Wilson’s classes will begin at 8:55am with a continuation of the 4×4 schedule implemented during the pandemic. 

Martin also foresees an extension of the current DCPS grading system into the 2021-22 school year. Among other adjustments, it allows students to retake and recover credits for courses they don’t pass. “The grading policy was something that was created specifically to respond to student needs during virtual learning,” she said. 

Martin suspects that discussions surrounding mental health will be emphasized as students return to school. A portion of the stimulus money that Wilson received will be allotted to student mental health resources in anticipation of students who may have faced new or exacerbated challenges due to the pandemic.

Throughout the year, in-person learning has been a contentious topic in DCPS. In early November, the Washington Teacher’s Union announced that they were not ready to return to in-person learning. The Union organized a mental health day where 101 members of the Wilson staff chose to take a sick leave in protest of the reopening.  

Despite the prior objections, Martin thinks hesitancy from the teachers unlikely. “Now that everyone is vaccinated and we understand the virus, I think teachers are ready to return to school.” 

“I am nervous about returning to the building with full capacity, but I am ready,” said Health teacher and Wilson Washington Teacher’s Union representative Rebecca Bradshaw-Smith. However, Bradshaw-Smith offered that grade levels phase in weekly rather than fully returning beginning August 29. 

Bradshaw-Smith also hopes for a continuation of asynchronous Wednesdays. The adjustment made during virtual learning not only allowed for a thorough sanitation of the building, but also time for planning, grading, and clubs, “developing a more robust learning and activity based experience,” said Bradshaw-Smith.

Based on the projected enrollment, the capacity within the building will increase from roughly 400 students to 2010 students per day next year. Martin, for one, “cannot wait for life to return back to normal.”