WASHINGTON — D.C. Public Schools sent its teachers a survey this week telling them they have until Monday, Oct.5 to decide whether they’re open to teaching in-person classes. But union officials representing teachers, administrators and school nurses said they can’t possibly answer that question, as they said DCPS hasn't provided enough information to go on.
On Friday, Washington Teachers' Union President Elizabeth Davis said she wanted to see for herself what safety measures were in place in D.C. schools.
“How many students will be in each classroom? Will there be PPE for every child and adult in the building?" she asked. "Until we have those answers it’s not fair to say 'just go and do what we say, and trust the process.'"
Davis, along with Walakewon Blegay with the DC Nurses Association and Richard Jackson with the Council of School Officers, said they tried to view three D.C. schools, but were told to leave they weren’t allowed in the buildings.
“It’s very frustrating for me, to be continued to be asked questions by media, by our members, by parents, that I can’t answer," Davis said.
Davis said she has developed a checklist and tried to achieve a memorandum of understanding with Chancellor of Schools Lewis Ferebee, to make sure there are common safety standards and protocols at all schools. She’s hoping to hear back soon.
Currently, Davis said she's speaking with lawyers about the survey DCPS sent out requiring teachers to respond by Oct. 5 on the issue of in-person teaching. The union is holding an all member meeting Saturday, but Davis said striking isn’t being discussed, yet.
“It’s secretive, and if we want our parents and our school workers to trust it, engage in how it’s being done," Davis said.
Blegay said there are 113 nurses working in 115 D.C. schools. She said those nurses felt strained before the pandemic and school health units are cramped. DCNA has reached out to D.C.’s Health Department for guidance, but Blegay said they were ignored.
“We have not received anything," she said. "And we do anticipate now that they’re going to ignore us. We hope they would not."
WUSA9 reached out to the Health Department but has not heard back.
D.C.'s Council heard from Davis Friday in an oversight hearing. Her concerns about transparency were shared by others, including Frazer O’Leary, from D.C.'s Board of Education.
“The information about the safety in our school buildings and the safety protocols for our children and our staff is non-existent," O'Leary said.
At a council hearing Friday, Ferebee said schools are getting detailed guidelines and they are working hard to secure safety supplies, including two million face masks. Ferebee added that starting with 80 elementary schools next week, schools will also be getting ventilation upgrades.
D.C. Deputy Mayor Paul Kihn underscored that it’s a priority to get students back inside classrooms. He cited national research showing students may have already lost many months' worth of learning through the pandemic.