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‘Is that following science? I don't think so’ | DC Teachers’ Union pushes back on mayor’s plans to reopen schools

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said she wants kids back inside DCPS schools on Nov. 9.

WASHINGTON D.C., DC — In a Thursday press briefing, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said the plan still stands to have children return to the classroom for the start of term two.

Bowser said they are focusing on how they can offer in-person learning opportunities in addition to virtual learning beginning Nov. 9.

“What we established a couple of months ago is that hybrid learning can happen in phase two," Bowser said. "We're in phase two." 

However, the Washington Teachers’ Union President Elizabeth Davis said she has serious doubts about the plan, citing questions about whether or not schools would be ready.

"To suggest that our schools can be ready to open on Nov. 9 without knowing what the conditions are going to be here in the District is premature in my opinion," Davis said. "It makes me wonder if we are actually following the science or are we following politics and pressure. Is that following science? I don't think so.”

Credit: DC Health
DCPS attendance and enrollment down compared to same time last year.

Davis said teachers have anxiety about the back to school date, but added that the plan all along has been to get teachers back to in-person learning as soon as possible.

“There is nothing, nothing that could ever replace in-person teaching but our teachers are adamant about safety,” Davis said.

RELATED: DC Public Schools will be all-virtual this fall. Here's what it will look like

When it comes to what the hybrid learning model would look like, in the past the mayor has talked about splitting students into two groups. One would be in the classroom Mondays and Tuesdays, the other groups on Thursdays and Fridays.

Davis said she's waiting to see an updated plan and who it will involve.

“What does a hybrid model look like? Who are the students that will be returning? What grade? How did you make the determination? Who are the teachers? How many teachers will be able to? How many have already said it's okay. I would like to know," Davis said. "We don't know any of that. And we are still waiting for that." 

Bowser said the District is continuing to work on its workforce readiness and has been securing proper PPE for students' return.

“We have done, I think, a fantastic job in acquiring the PPE that we need.” Bowser said. “And we have a plan to make sure our ventilation systems are updated for November the ninth.”

RELATED: Union: 2 DCPS teachers test positive for COVID-19 after picking up school supplies

Despite the plan being to return to a hybrid plan in the coming months, Davis said there are also plans in the works to have teachers return sooner than that.

“In the last week, my office has been inundated, even though we're working remotely, with teachers calling about a request for them to return to in-person teaching next week before the November 9 date,” Davis said. “When I investigated that with the Chancellor, he indicated that yes he did ask some principals to come up with a plan to bring small groups of students back to instruction next week, before November 9.”

Bowser said Thursday that DCPS is reviewing proposals from principals and schools.

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