District of Columbia Schools and administrators, such as those at Duke Ellington School of the Arts, are making safety plans and taking precautions as they gear up to offer in-person learning options for some students on Feb. 1. (Courtesy Photo)

By Micha Green
AFRO D.C. Editor
mgreen@afro.com

Despite coronavirus continuing to plague the nation’s capital, District of Columbia Public Schools are gearing up to open their doors for in-person learning on Feb. 1- the first day of Term 3- but with COVID-19 standards, not every pupil has a seat at the desk.  DCPS Chancellor Dr. Lewis Ferebee said schools, on average, will be able to serve approximately 30 percent of their students in-person depending on staffing and space in the classroom, thus requiring DCPS to offer particular seats before all pupils will be welcomed in the school-building. 

“School reopening plans were shaped by their Reopen Community Corps that met over the past two months to determine the best path to welcome back students and staff in Term 3. They reviewed feedback from elementary and secondary learning preference surveys, led with equity to prioritize their highest need students, and helped school leaders design a tailored reopening plan for their school in Term 3,” Ferebee wrote in a statement.

“We look forward to welcoming up to 15,000 students in-person in Term 3,” wrote Ferebee in a statement on the DCPS website.  “A family will always have the option to continue learning at home and can decline a matched seat. If you accept a seat, you may also switch to learning at home at any point by contacting your school.

With in-person learning options in play, every DCPS will offer a variety of services for students, including: In-Person Learning (IPL) Classrooms with teachers, tutoring services or Canvas Academics and Real Engagement (CARE) Classrooms with staff facilitators, and self-contained classrooms for students with special education needs.

As preparation for reopening continues, DCPS is emphasizing the safety precautions taken to keep staff, students and families healthy.  

DCPS in-person staff can now take the COVID-19 vaccine.

“Beginning the week of , in-person staff, including teachers, support staff, at D.C. Public Schools (DCPS) and D.C. Public Charter Schools will begin receiving the COVID-19 vaccine,” Mayor Bowser tweeted on Jan. 19.

District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) Chancellor Dr. Lewis Ferebee visited A CARE classroom last week, in preparation for schools to begin in-person/ hybrid virtual learning options and services on Feb. 1. (Courtesy Photo)

One teacher took to social media to tweet his elation in scheduling an appointment for the COVID-19 vaccine and returning to the classroom.

“COVID-19 Vaccine scheduled thanks to .  As a teacher I’m excited to get back to the building.  Although the rest of this year is virtual/ hybrid, the hopeful full fall return is going to be a huge celebration,” said Hardy Middle School teacher Joseph Mentzer.  

Further, DCPS has created COVID-19 Response Protocol for when there is a potential exposure in a school building.

“If a student or staff member who was in the building in the past 14 days reports a positive test for COVID-19, the positive individual will immediately begin working or learning from home and consult their healthcare provider and DCPS will notify D.C. Health,” Chancellor Ferebee tweeted.  “DCPS will provide self-quarantine instructions to close contacts, notify students and staff in the building about the positive cases, and follow all steps outlined by DC Health and the CDC for cleaning, disinfecting and sanitizing of the facility.”

Mother and early childhood education specialist Hilary Daniel, considered the needs of students in her eagerness for DCPS’ return to in-building services and activities.

“I’m excitedly nervous or nervously excited, but it’s a necessary risk we have to take if we ever expect to feel any sense of normalcy.  I understand the apprehension from both educators and parents, however, our children need to return to in-person instruction.  Children and teachers are missing out on valuable instruction time when trying to focus on learning, while also having to deal with distractions at home,” Daniel told the {AFRO}.  

On one Facebook post about in-person learning, several people disagreed with the choice of schools to open.

“Teachers need to feel safe and DCPS is all over the place with no clear safety protocol.  On top of each school having a different plan,” one Facebook user wrote.  Another person said, “In school learning won’t work either if they don’t have proper safety measures in place.  What’s the point of reopening if an outbreak will happen forcing them to close?”

Daniel noted, however, the major role schools play for some students, outside of the classroom and instruction.  

“Also, considering the very unfortunate, yet undeniable fact that some children only receive any semblance of proper nutrition- or even safety- from school, we have to consider them as well,” Daniel added.

For more information on DCPS’ reopening plans https://dcpsreopenstrong.com.

Micha Green

AFRO Washington, D.C. Editor