WASHINGTON — A limited number of D.C. Public Schools students will be able to return to in-person learning starting in November, DCPS Chancellor Dr. Lewis D. Ferebee announced Monday.
During the mayor's COVID-19 situational update on Monday afternoon, Ferebee said DCPS will begin to welcome back elementary grades pre-k through fifth 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.
Ferebee said that seats will be offered on a lottery basis. Students who are offered and choose to participate in an in-person learning model will be in small cohorts of five to 11 students assigned to a classroom teacher.
"Regardless of the in-person experience, every student will be cohorted," Ferebee said.
The daily schedule will be similar to a typical school day and will run five days a week – with a half-day built-in on Wednesday.
While students will be in “in-person learning classrooms", others will be in “Student Canvas Academics and Real Engagement (CARE) Classrooms.”
In the CARE classrooms, a staff member “will support students with all-virtual learning.” About 7,000 students will be in in-person learning classrooms, while 14,000 will be in CARE classrooms, officials said.
Ferebee said that seats will be prioritized for elementary students with the "highest needs" – beginning with students experiencing homelessness, students who receive special education, or who are English learners followed by students designated as high-risk. Siblings will be given preference in the process.
If a student is offered a classroom seat and declines to take it, the student will continue with all-virtual learning. The seat will then be offered to another student, Ferebee said.
As for teachers, a survey asking them about participating in the in-person instruction in the classroom was released. Teachers who wish to participate or to give their responses must respond by 5 p.m. on Oct. 6.
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.
Washington Teachers’ Union (WTU) President Elizabeth Davis issued a statement following the Bowser and Ferebee's decision to reopen schools to in-person learning on Nov. 9.
"While our teachers want to return to our classrooms and resume in-person learning, we can only do so when it is safe and when the Mayor and Chancellor have come to the table to work with us and other Union leaders to ensure the safety of our students, school-based staff, and communities," Davis said in the statement.
On Sept. 28, some D.C. students already began in-person learning to receive additional support during their virtual learning process. The in-person learning opportunity, also known as the Student Support Center and Career and Technical Education (CTE) program, will not replace virtual learning, school officials said.
The program will provide tutoring, social-emotional support, physical education, and outdoor learning experiences.
Last week, Ballou STAY High School opened its doors to students seeking additional help through the program – the school welcomed back students for its cosmetology and barbering program.