WASHINGTON D.C., DC — Thousands of students are sick with COVID-19 and even more are quarantined as close contacts. Just days before the winter break, D.C. Public Schools is dealing with a coronavirus outbreak prompting some parents and teachers to renew their push to return to virtual learning.
DCPS Chancellor Lewis Ferebee announced Wednesday evening that Whittier Elementary School will move to all-virtual until December 22. In-person classes will resume after the winter break, January 3.
The school's principal sent a letter home to families stating, "The decision to shift the entire school to virtual instruction for the next week did not come lightly. However, with many students required to quarantine and limited staffing availability, virtual learning will allow students to end the calendar year strong."
Will DC Public Schools move to virtual learning if cases and quarantines continue to rise?
“What are the metrics that we agree to when we say ‘okay, this is when we make the shift,” Ward 7 State Board of Education Member Eboni-Rose Thompson said. “I think that's the thing that really could help people, you know, start to plan.”
WUSA9 asked D.C. Health for those metrics and are still waiting to hear back.
But here’s the information we can Verify:
According to the CDC, D.C. is still in Substantial community transmission, but cases are on the rise as the omicron variant makes its way across the country. A spokesperson with DCPS said, “Just like the City, we are also seeing a spike in schools but are confident in our protocols.”
According to D.C.’s COVID-19 Dashboard, there’s been a steady climb since November with a significant spike after Thanksgiving.
Let’s zero in on that data:
- Between November 24-28, 974 students tested positive and 819 close contacts were placed on quarantine.
- By December 12, 1,161 students were COVID positive and 1,288 were quarantined.
- As of December 13, 1,198 students were positive with 1,212 quarantined.
"Let’s stop here,” said Angela Anderson, “Go sanitize these buildings, reduce the risk.”
Just as WUSA9 spoke to Angela Anderson and other parents from Whittier Elementary school about the now 12 confirmed COVID cases and 101 quarantines, D.C. Council received guidance from DCPS. According to an email obtained by WUSA9, a member of the DCPS Central Office wrote:
“In the event that public health authorities recommended a school closure, DCPS would follow that guidance and move to virtual learning. At this time, no recommendation has been made.”
So, we can verify, YES.
A DCPS spokesperson said the school system will quickly pivot to virtual learning if recommended by DC Health.
"I am confident that at the very least where the rubber meets the road, families and educators have now had experience with this (virtual learning) and can pivot quickly,” added Thompson, “I just think that as a city, we need to be clear with people about when that point is.”
DCPS said fully vaccinated students who show no symptoms do not have to quarantine but test 3-5 days after exposure to a COVID-positive person.