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DC Nurses Union: 'Your children are not safe returning to schools'

The union says that nearly a third of their members in the school system have underlying health conditions and are concerned about their health.

WASHINGTON — The District of Columbia Nurses Association (DCNA), the union that represents health care professionals in the District, says children in D.C. are not safe returning to D.C. Public Schools. 

"The failure of the District to implement safety measures and work with DCNA to implement a safe school opening is placing the lives of the staff and children at risk," the letter released by the union states.

Prior to the decision of reopening D.C. Public Schools for limited in-person instruction, the union sent a letter to D.C. Health officials giving several recommendations to implement – ensuring that schools are safe before students return to the classroom.

The recommendations included:

  • adequate protective gear (PPE)
  • implementing proper ventilation of the health suites
  • streamlining the process of caring for students
  • identifying isolation rooms
  • proper staffing
  • cleaning of the health suite
  • quarantine protocols, etc.

"Nurses like all others want the schools open but the safety concerns have not been prioritized to date. We can do this, but we all need to be at the table working together," Thedith Moore, president of the LPN unit of School Nurses at DCNA said.

Your Children are not safe returning to schools until school nurses recommendations are met.

Posted by District of Columbia Nurses Association on Monday, October 5, 2020

DCPS announced a number of safety precautions that are at the center of the nurses union's concern. During Monday's news conference, DCPS laid out the steps they are taking to prepare for Term 2, beginning with:

  • Setting up individual school set-up of socially distanced learning environments from Oct. 5-23
  • Distributing PPE and materials to schools by Oct. 23
  • Addressing essential work orders by Oct. 23
  • Completing HVAC enhancements in schools no later than Nov. 6
Credit: DC Public Schools

The union states that nearly a third of their members in the school system have underlying health conditions and are concerned about their health and the health of the students they care for.

"Nurses will be put at risk covering more than one school during the pandemic crisis due to the shortage of school nurses," Robin Burns, RN, Vice President of DCNA said. "This will place the health of the students, teachers, families and the larger community at risk."

On Monday, DCPS Chancellor Dr. Lewis D. Ferebee announced a limited number of D.C. Public Schools students will be able to return to in-person learning starting in November.

RELATED: DC Public Schools will begin offering limited in-person instruction to students starting Nov. 9

During the mayor's COVID-19 situational update on Monday afternoon, Ferebee said DCPS will begin to welcome back elementary grades pre-k through 5th grade on Nov. 9 during DCPS' Term 2.

DCPS will begin to welcome back grades sixth through 12th at the beginning of Term 3.

“Learning at home is not working for every student. We particularly know that our youngest children are most challenged,” Ferebee said.

Ferebee emphasized that while seats will be offered to students, families will continue to have the option to continue distance learning at home. When Term 2 begins next month, all in-person operations will be consistently monitored following D.C. Health's COVID-19 compliance. 

Under the District's guidance for Phase 2 of reopening, schools are allowed to include in-person instruction.

To watch the full news conference, click the video below:

Ferebee said all in-person models will limit the size of groups, require safe routines, maintain clean facilities, reduce class transitions, and will adjust arrival and dismissal procedures. 

COVID-19 screenings and reporting of symptoms in addition to adjusting meal routines will also be maintained.

Middle and high school students will have the option to return to in-person learning with the start of Term 3 beginning in January at the earliest, officials said.

RELATED: National Nurses United says Washington Hospital Center needs to stop reusing N95 respirators

RELATED: Black Nurses Matter march on DC streets helps fight for health disparities in Black community

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