Chancellor adapts COVID notification system in response to rising cases

DCPS reports 57 cases at Wilson


AP Language and Composition students had their class from the atrium on Tuesday, December 21, because their teacher was absent. Wilson closed for virtual instruction on Wednesday.

Joanna Chait and Emily Mulderig


Wednesday afternoon, the Chancellor announced that DCPS is making adjustments to expedite the notification process after a student or staff member tests positive for COVID-19. 

Emails sent to alert the school-wide community of a new case will now include the total number of newly reported cases at the school. In an email sent to DCPS staff, Chancellor Lewis Ferebee noted that if someone tests positive, their entire class will be notified “if more detailed contact tracing cannot be completed expediently.”

On the evening of Wednesday, December 22, the DCPS COVID response team reported 57 cases at Wilson in an email to the school community. The letter also stated that additional cases are being processed. 

On Monday, Interim Principal Gregory Bargeman told The Beacon that over 50 cases had been reported to the administration, but due to a lag in DCPS’s case-reporting system, the school community was only notified of 17 of them. By Wednesday, he reported an additional 16 new cases.

In the weekly newsletter on December 17, Bargeman wrote, “I recognize that the official information issued by the school may not match the perceived number of cases you have heard about in your student’s circle of friends or classes.” He continued, “we are required to follow a DCPS reporting protocol.”

Many students and staff were absent earlier this week due to the uptick in COVID cases both at the school and across the city. Wilson was closed for virtual instruction Wednesday. Bargeman sent an email to announce the change. “All Wilson students will be engaged in virtual learning tomorrow,” he said in an email.

No further information about the reasoning behind the decision has been provided by the school. DCPS has not provided any further school-specific information regarding Wilson’s shift to online classes for the last day before Winter Break.

Clarence Alston is an attendance counselor and receives notice from families when a student tests positive. In an interview Tuesday, Alston said, “the emails and phone calls have been constant.” He said that he had received reports of positive cases that day. 

With the shift to online learning, the absence of the school’s weekly asymptomatic testing program this week, and the start of Winter Break, it is unclear whether contact tracing is actively occurring or if families should continue to report positive cases after the break has begun. 

 All DCPS schools will be closed from January 3-4. The extended Winter Break aims to provide staff and families with additional time to take rapid antigen tests before returning on Wednesday, January 5.