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DC Council votes to expand virtual learning

The DC Council voted unanimously Tuesday to pass the emergency legislation.

WASHINGTON — More students in D.C. Public Schools will soon be eligible for virtual learning. The D.C. Council voted unanimously Tuesday to pass the 'Protecting Our Children Emergency Amendment Act of 2021.'

The bill adds 350 additional virtual learning seats to DCPS. It is a decision that goes against D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser's stance on the return to the classroom.

Those additional seats will give students with certain medical conditions, or students living with an immunocompromised parent, the opportunity to learn from home.

For the last six months, Mayor Bowser has been a supporter of the majority of students learning in person.

Over the weekend, the mayor sent a letter to the D.C. Council saying expanding virtual learning would create a serious disruption to the school year, and the thousands of students who are back at school. The letter went on to say that the schools are a safe place for students, with a COVID-19 positivity rate of only 0.6%.

RELATED: DC Council emergency bill calls for expanded virtual learning, better transparency on school conditions

Ultimately, council members passed the emergency legislation, saying they are acting based on what D.C. parents are asking for.

"Six months ago in April, the mayor announced a return of full in-person instruction for nearly all students. Since then we have seen COVID cases skyrocket, new, more dangerous strains of the virus emerge, and troubling weaknesses within our school facilities as well as D.C. school health and safety protocols. Yet, the executive has failed to adapt to the changing conditions on the ground or listen to the outcry from educators, parents and advocates regarding its reopening. That's why the council has this responsibility to step in and make the necessary adjustments," said Ward 4 Councilmember Janeese Lewis George.

The bill also increases asymptomatic testing in schools each week to 20%. It gives students an excused absence if they have to stay home for pandemic-related reasons, like quarantine. Parents will also now be notified of a positive COVID case in their child's classroom, not just in the school building.

RELATED: 'The mission is to create a safe environment for kids' | HEPA filters and UVC lights used to reopen DC Public Schools safely

Recently, parents have voiced their concerns about the conditions of some of the classrooms, especially those with failing HVAC systems. This emergency bill also requires the Department of General Services to post all open work orders online for the public to see, along with an estimated completion date. This must happen by Nov. 1 and must be updated every two weeks, according to the legislation.

The emergency legislation goes into effect in 10 days. Click here to view the full bill. 

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