D.C. Public Schools (DCPS) announced this week that they will not be reopening schools for in-person learning for roughly 7,000 elementary students next week as previously planned.
“DCPS will not open elementary schools on November 9 as planned,” DCPS Chancellor Dr. Lewis Ferebee wrote in a tweet. “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.”
The Washington Teacher’s Union (WTU) released a statement stating that at a Member Assembly meeting the week prior, 93 percent of the members present voted to express “no confidence” in the District’s plan to reopen schools. “Last Thursday evening night, DC’s teachers spoke loudly and clearly,” WTU President Elizabeth Davis said in the statement. “We do not have faith that the DCPS plans to reopen our schools are in the best interest of students.” The union represents more than 5,000 teachers, active and retired.
According to WTU, there has been a lack of communication and negotiation between DCPS and the teachers and parents in the community. “We really need to get the chancellor to understand that this planning on how to reopen schools — they cannot simply leave parents and teachers out of the equation. This idea that you have to trust the chancellor and mayor? Parents are not trusting that,” Davis said.
With educators staging a sick-in which led to the cancellation of classes, the WTU has made their message clear. “The Teachers’ Union has indicated that teachers won’t show up. So we have to make some adjustments to the timeline,” Mayor Muriel Bowser said.
Of the roughly 7,000 students that were expected to return to in-person learning, priority was going to students who are experiencing homelessness, have special-education needs, and are learning English as a second language. Ferebee told the Washington Post he expects virtual learning to continue for DCPS through 2020. He blamed this delay on the WTU’s demand that all teachers be given the option to work from home.
According to a statement released by Ferebee, DCPS will continue to take steps towards reopening, including elementary school principals arranging safety walkthroughs with community members to show how the buildings are preparing for students and staff.
“We commit to supporting our students, families, teachers, and staff in our urgent mission to safely reopen schools,” the statement read.
This decision from DCPS comes amid a recent spike in the District and surrounding area’s coronaviruses cases.