WASHINGTON — The DC Department of Health has released outbreak data detailing locations where coronavirus outbreaks have happened in the District.
According to DC Mayor Muriel Bowser, the DC Department of Health [DC DOH] defines a coronavirus outbreak as a location where two or more cases have been reported in a 14-day period.
DC DOH data shows there were 19 coronavirus outbreaks reported in local schools between August 1 and November 26. The department adds outbreaks in school buildings include incidents involving staff and students involved in any activities in the building, in and out of the classroom, such as community services and sports.
Friendship Public Charter School said, so far, its in-person learning plan has worked out.
Candice Tolliver Burns, chief communications officer for Friendship Public Charter School, says the school has a zero positivity rate in all its learning hubs.
She said the school has achieved that feat by clean its buildings hourly, conducting daily wellness checks, and testing all 375 of its students biweekly.
"Our families and our partners, our health care professionals that are supporting our safety program, we're all on the same page," Burns said. "What we understand is that the only way we can stay safe is if we stay safe together."
DC Public Schools has already brought back 400 elementary students to more than 20 of its schools in what it calls its CARE classrooms. So far, DCPS said it has experienced only a few COVID cases within its school buildings' walls.
Still, a group of parents are calling on school leaders to open DC schools up even more. The group has circulated a petition online that has gathered roughly 1,000 signatures in a few days.
"Over the past 9 months, we've watched our local government and our community prioritize and innovate solutions to operate restaurants, gyms, and generally resume normal life amid a pandemic, while solutions for education are stalled, stunted, and straight-up lack creativity," the group said in a statement. "We are failing our most important societal asset — our future."
However, the Washington Teachers' Union says it needs even more scientific data showing their teachers will be safe before more students are welcomed back into school buildings.
"We don't have the data and we haven't had the investment from the city to sit down and work with everybody to develop a plan," said Washington Teachers' Union Communications Consultant Joe Weedon.
He added the Washington Teachers' Union has made many requests to school leaders.
"We can't tell you exactly how many CARE classrooms are operating," Weedon said. "How many students and staff are attending. We need those basic numbers. We also need to know, as DCPS has been doing these surveys, how many students are indicating an interest in coming back and what are the conditions that they would come back, so we can develop staffing plans to work."
Currently, DCPS says it expects its schools to create a plan to return to in-person learning in Term 3. That term begins in mid-January. A DCPS spokesperson added schools are engaging with the broader school community to develop reopening plans that meet the needs of their students and families.
Ultimately, DCPS says school plans will be reviewed and approved by Central Office as long as they align with certain expectations.
The schools are also expected to consult with "Reopen Community Corps" which will consist of elementary school leaders to assist with their reopening strategies.
"Health and safety remain our top priority as we plan to reopen our schools," said DCPS Chancellor Dr. Lewis Ferebee in a statement. "In the coming weeks, we will collaborate with staff, educator, parent, and student voices to inform key decisions concerning our plans for In-Person Learning and CARE Classrooms in Term 3."
Full Open DC Schools Statement:
Open DC Schools is a group of DC parents advocating for the safe and expeditious reopening of DC public and public charter schools, for families who choose that option. We believe that remote learning is an inadequate and ineffective substitute for the classroom, and that it is possible to return our children to school safely. We know this is not a simple task, but it is hard work worth doing. We are simply asking the powers that be to do the hard work to which they’ve dedicated their careers, and find a way to properly educate our children.
Over the past 9 months, we’ve watched our local government and our community prioritize and innovate solutions to operate restaurants, gyms, and generally resume normal life amid a pandemic, while solutions for education are stalled, stunted, and straight-up lack creativity. We are failing our most important societal asset — our future.
We know that returning children safely to the classroom is possible. We see cities across the country prioritizing the return to in-person schooling, and we see countries around the world doing the same. Even in our own city, private schools and day cares have opened to families with the resources to access them. We know that in-person schooling is the preferred option for thousands of families across the District. In just one week, 1,000 families have signed our petition. Many teachers and school staff are deeply invested in getting back into the classroom before even more time is lost. And we know that the pandemic is taking its worst educational toll on Black, Hispanic, low-income and English-learner children, and students with disabilities. From global reports from UNICEF, to DCPS’s own literacy tests showing children increasingly missing literacy bench marks, the damage being done to children is real, and lasting. We demand our leaders do better for our children and our city.
We invite interested parents, students, and community advocates to visit our website at www.opendcschools.com to learn more, add their voices to the discussion, and get involved.