D.C. Public Schools are back in session Monday, Aug. 31 and city officials have guidance on how to make it as smooth as possible.
School will start all-online but many resources including free meals, free SmarTrip cards and counseling services will still be available to students, Deputy Mayor for Education Paul Kihn said at a news conference Wednesday.
“It’s very important to us for families to know that school is in session in Washington, D.C.,” he said.
Families need to enroll students, make sure they’re immunized and take advantage of mental health support as the coronavirus pandemic continues, Schools Chancellor Dr. Lewis Ferebee and others said.
Here’s a rundown of officials’ top tips:
Enrollment: All students need to be enrolled, even if they will attend the same school as they did last year. Go to enrolldcps.dc.gov.
Vaccinations: Make sure your child’s vaccinations are up to date. The city has seen an “unprecedented decline” in vaccinations among students, D.C. Health Director Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt said. Students can get vaccinated at school-based health centers. Find the list here.
Mental Health Help: The pandemic and virtual learning have created many hardships for families. If you need help, a 24-hour mental health hotline is now available. Call 1-888-793-4357 for free and confidential support from licensed clinicians. The hotline is part of a school-based parental support program.
“Stigma cannot be a barrier to getting the support you need,” said Dr. Barbara Bazron, director of the Department of Behavioral Health.
Technology and Internet Access: If you need a device or help getting high-speed internet access, contact your school. Pre-kindergarten students will get tablets. Primary and secondary students will get laptops. For internet, families can get cellular devices enabled with free internet, or mobile hot spots.
If you already have a device, make sure it meets system requirements. You can find that information here.
Programs: Live instruction will be conducted on Microsoft Teams. School resources will be available on Canvas.
Free and Reduced-Price Meals: Students who receive free and reduced-price meals can still do so even though school will be virtual. Contact your school to learn where to pick up meals.
SmarTrip Cards: Students’ Metro cards from last year will work through Sept. 29. New cards will be distributed through schools.
Community Service: Students are encouraged to seek volunteer and community service opportunities despite the pandemic, Ferebee said. He encouraged older students to look into becoming poll workers, which are needed for the presidential election.
Drop in Enrollment: DCPS has seen a citywide decline in pre-kindergarten enrollment, Kihn said. Families may be choosing to keep young children home instead, he said.
Truancy and Student Engagement: Attendance will be taken every day and students are expected to log in on time and be engaged, Ferebee said. The truancy policy remains in place.
Schools will reach out to families about the reasons for any absences and try to work with them, he said. Evening classes for high school students are an option.