DC Working on Plan for Some In-Person School to Begin in November

Details on the return of in-person schooling and the rollout of a vaccination program are still in the works, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser says

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Washington, D.C., is working on a plan to begin a hybrid schooling model that could have some students back in class in November. The District is also planning on how the first rounds of a coronavirus vaccine could be distributed once one is available.

D.C. Public Schools aims to have a mix of in-person and virtual learning after Nov. 6, Mayor Muriel Bowser said Thursday. The city is looking at Monday, Nov. 9 as a potential day to shift away from the hybrid model.

No plan has been approved yet, and details aren’t confirmed.

“I understand that DCPS has in hand and is reviewing ... at least a dozen proposals from principals,” Bowser said.

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.

Bowser said the city is carefully tracking enrollment and attendance, which appears to be down from last year. Attendance on one day this week was at 85% compared to 92% a year ago, Bowser said.

Coronavirus vaccinations will be a major step in returning to normal. The federal government has sent the District a template advising how to organize the process of inoculating the population, D.C. Health Director Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt said.

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Nesbitt said the city received a template on starting a COVID-19 vaccination rollout in October (a priority and promise from President Donald Trump), but said that many public health officials expect a safe and effective vaccine around January to early 2021.

The vaccine will be distributed to priority groups first, and national organizations will inform state- and city-level decisions on how to decide who gets the first immunizations, Nesbitt said.

Public-private partnerships will be a part of the vaccination plan.

A little more than six months since coronavirus was declared a pandemic, Bowser gave an overview of the massive impact and response the virus has elicited.

The city has racked up nearly $1 billion in COVID-19-related costs, including paying for staff overtime, food support for households, testing and contact tracing efforts. Drawing on reserve cash, federal grants and cost-cutting will help the city balance the budget.

Among the city's next priorities: making contact tracing more effective. Coronavirus patients are providing an average of just one close contact to city staff, which may not be enough to truly contain the virus.

Nesbitt said stigma drives low reporting but said D.C. Health is working to assure patients that contact tracers make an effort to protect peoples’ privacy.

“We really do need the public and positive cases to give us a list of their contacts," Nesbitt said.

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