A limited number of D.C. Public Schools students can return to in-person learning starting in November, the chancellor announced Monday. Twice as many students will do virtual learning inside schools as will be in typical classrooms.
Starting on Nov. 9, some families will have the option to return to schools in person, Chancellor Lewis Ferebee said at a news conference. Students in pre-kindergarten through fifth grade as well as students with “known opportunity gaps” will have the option to return.
Families will continue to have the option to continue learning from home.
“Learning at home is not working for every student. We particularly know that our youngest children are most challenged,” Ferebee said.
Some students will be in “in-person learning classrooms.” Others will be in “Student Canvas Academics and Real Engagement (CARE) Classrooms.” In the CARE classrooms, a staff member “will support students will all-virtual learning.”
About 7,000 students will be in in-person learning classrooms. About 14,000 will be in CARE classrooms.
Parents will not get to choose whether they want full in-person learning or a CARE class; that will be selected through a lottery.
DCPS officials hope to have about 75% of all elementary students back in schools. There will be safety measures in place, including face masks, hand sanitizer and temperature checks. Class sizes will be five to 11 students. Floors will have social distancing markers.
Middle and high school students will continue distance learning until at least Feb. 1, when a similar plan will be implemented for them.
It’s unclear what teachers will be required to do. The Washington Teachers’ Union has been steadfast in its reluctance to return to schools until they are certain they are safe. Teachers were not included in the planning process for reopening.
“While our teachers want to return to our classrooms and resume in-person learning, we can only do so when it is safe and when the Mayor and Chancellor have come to the table to work with us and other Union leaders to ensure the safety of our students, school-based staff, and communities,” the union said.
Ferebee declined to say how many teachers would be willing to return to classrooms.
Parents don’t need to do anything yet; starting Oct. 23, they will be notified if their student has been chosen for one of the in-person options. Then, the parents will opt in or opt out of that option. All students will be able to continue learning from home if they choose, but they won’t be able to select which in-person option they want. Siblings will be given preference in the lottery.
DCPS began the school year virtually, with all students learning at home.
Mayor Muriel Bowser said last month that D.C. was working on a plan to begin a hybrid schooling model that could have some students back in class in November. The District also was planning on how the first rounds of a coronavirus vaccine could be distributed once available.
DCPS aims to have a mix of in-person and virtual learning after Nov. 6, Bowser said on Sept. 17. The city was looking at Monday, Nov. 9 as a potential day to shift away from the hybrid model.
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The city’s previous hybrid plan, which was scrapped before the school year began, would have had students in school a few days per week and learning online during other days.
Monday is World Teachers’ Day. Bowser thanked D.C. teachers in a tweet.
“These last few months, you've worked selflessly to see our students through unprecedented times. Today and always, our city honors and thanks you,” the message said.