WASHINGTON — D.C. parents and students hoping for a definitive answer about next school year are going to have to keep waiting.
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser could only say that the fall semester will start Aug. 31, but if whether students will continue to learn virtually, or they will return to their classrooms is still unknown.
If they do return, it's unsure what their classrooms and schedules will look like. That's left a lot of families frustrated.
"We are scared, we are so nervous," Jalan Burton, a mother of three in the Hillcrest-Penn Branch neighborhood, said.
With an 8-year-old in school, a 2-year-old at home and now a newborn, the pediatrician said this semester has been a huge problem.
"The virtual program that they've had has not been sufficient," Burton said. "It has not been vigorous. It has been spotty, depending on if your teacher understands technology or not. It depends a lot on the parents."
That said, Burton thinks Bowser is doing the right thing by holding off on a decision on whether to hold the next school year online or in person. And Dr. Burton is thinking about the mayor's decision as a public health expert.
"I think it's smart for her to wait to improve testing, and number two, improve contact tracing," Burton said. "So I think it makes sense."
Even if D.C. kids do go back to school, the mayor's advisers say they may have to stagger schedules -- online one day, at school the next -- and classrooms may have to be limited to a maximum of 10 socially-distanced students.
"D.C. residents want us to follow the science, take care of the vulnerable," Bowser said in a Friday press conference. "Following a phased approach will allow us to get kids back to school. The way to get everything open is to have a measured and phased approach."
The city says there will be some virtual summer camps. The Marion Barry Summer Jobs program will be virtual, and the city plans to survey parents about what's most important to them next year
"We didn't come out here to put out a plan and say live with it," Bowser said. "We're doing a survey to see where parents are."
The city is looking at huge challenges if kids are on staggered schedules.
What about siblings? Will they be on the same schedule, so parents can be free to work?
If they have to keep working from home, what will be done for kids who don't have computers or broadband?
Unfortunately, the pandemic has hit parents hard, and it doesn't look like it's going to get any easier until we have a vaccine.