While there is excitement about children reuniting with friends and teachers in person, some parents and members of the School Board alike are concerned about schools reopening fully in the District of Columbia considering the rise in COVID-19 infections. (Courtesy Photo)

By Sharece Crawford
Special to the AFRO

It’s back to school season for students around the country. Some parents are enjoying posting first day of school pictures on social media and seemingly adjusting to the new normal; while others are outraged, protesting and petitioning State and local legislatures to include virtual learning as a permanent or hybrid option. 

As the COVID-19 pandemic surges in the U.S. and abroad thousands of residents and educators are fighting for the option of either full remote learning or “hybrid learning” for both virtual and in person options. In Washington, D.C, at a press conference in August, DCPS Chancellor Dr. Lewis Ferebee said that the virtual learning option is “not something we’re considering.” Thus, D.C. government, school and health officials laid out protocols and rules that the District’s schools will operate under during the school year, which began Aug. 30.

EmpowerEd DC received 3,270 signatures for their petition: for a “A Safe and Equitable Reopening with Outdoor Learning!” to D.C. Public Schools, Deputy Mayor for Education and D.C. Charter. According to EmpowerED DC, “There’s been great success in pilots of outdoor learning in D.C., but it hasn’t scaled up enough. This is a safer, viable option to reopen our schools.” 

“Ask Mayor Bowser for a $4 million fund for outdoor learning,” emphasized EmpowerED DC.

“It’s the first day of school in D.C., and I’m stuck between feelings of hope and fear. I hope this all works out; it’s been hard to see my daughters miss out on friendships, personal engagement with teachers, and community. But I fear it won’t, and we’ll be virtual again soon,” tweeted reporter and WAMU editor, Martin Austermuhle. “Either way,” Austermuhle continued, “serious props and thanks to all teachers, administrators and staff who are trying to make this work. And here’s my high-five and hug to every other parent out there today who might slightly feel like they are losing it. Stay strong!”

On Aug. 25, the District of Columbia  State Board of Education called on Mayor Muriel Boswer to permit schools to provide virtual instruction.

“We agree with you that personal learning should be a priority for all schools in the District. However, we are concerned that many families are still afraid of sending students back amid an increase in infections,” the Board wrote in a collective letter.

The Board is requesting that Bowser allow all local education agencies to add a hybrid or fully virtual option for all families who request it. In addition, the Board calls for attendance policies to be made more flexible in the case of excused absence and extends the definition of exemption for health needs with personal learning to include the health concerns of the household.

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