DC Teachers Flag Safety Concerns for Reopening in Fall

School bus

The Washington Teachers’ Union released a report Monday with suggestions on how schools can safely reopen in the fall as the coronavirus continues. They flagged several concerns about the health of students, teachers and staff. 

Teachers’ desks should get physical barriers and classroom furnishings should be updated to promote social distancing, the union said. 

Face masks should be required during stage one and stage two of reopening, the union recommended. 

They cited concerns about air circulation in aging buildings, and worsened infestations of insects and rodents if students are eating in their classrooms. 

The union endorsed the idea of non-traditional school hours, which many teachers have questioned. 

More than 50% of teachers either are at high risk of developing serious illness from COVID-19 or live with someone who is, according to preliminary surveys of union members. 

“These factors place severe constraints on the ability of teachers to return to in-person learning,” the report says. 

Additionally, the union called for D.C. to invest $11 million to provide every student with a computer or tablet.

School Without Walls teacher Alexandra Morgan said she was worried about how she was going to enforce social distancing for children. 

“Stay six feet apart, don’t touch them, don’t do this, don’t do that. That’s very hard for a young child. As a teacher, how am I supposed to support that in the classroom?” she asked.

Teachers are critical in slowing the spread of the virus, WTU President Elizabeth Davis said. 

“We recognize the importance of reopening our schools as the first step in restarting our economy,” she said in a statement. “We must do so with our teacher and other front line voices at the center of the conversation to prevent an increase in infections.” 

DCPS said in a statement it has sought input from teachers through surveys and a focus group with the Chancellors Teacher Advisory Board.

"DCPS is looking forward to continuing to engage teachers on plans for reopening and reviewing the Washington Teachers Union’s report," a spokesperson for the school system said.

Stay with NBC Washington for more details on this developing story. 

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