WASHINGTON — D.C. Public Schools will move to virtual and distancing learning for the start of the 2020-2021 academic year, starting Aug. 31 until Nov. 6, Mayor Muriel Bowser announced at a news conference on Thursday.
The decision to move to a virtual learning scenario came after District leaders in conjunction with D.C. Health Department analyzed recent COVID-19 data that suggested that it was the best decision to keep students safe during the pandemic.
The school system asked families and staff members to fill out a survey and received about 17,000 responses regarding the reopening of schools.
Education officials said they designed virtual and online schedules depending on ages and grade levels. Officials said 200 teachers helped develop this new online curriculum, which calls for group and individual instruction, and periodic check-ins to make sure students are keeping up emotionally and academically.
The majority of independent learning time will be on Wednesday and virtual learning will be live lessons online during the week.
View the proposed virtual learning schedules below:
Teachers will be conducting learning checks to monitor and understand gaps in learning. Attendance will also be tracked and taken during this learning scenario, officials said.
DCPS Chancellor Lewis Ferebee said they’re even considering the possibility of one-on-one in-person instruction for some special needs students.
“We also heard from families that our platforms needed to be streamlined,” Ferebee said.
No more logging onto numerous sites just to get an assignment. According to the Chancellor, Clever and Microsoft Teams will be used.
Students will also have access to mental health support and social-emotional learning activities to get them through the virtual learning process, officials said.
Parents can go to DCPS Technology Survey to reach out to their child's school to let them know about their technology needs so that they can learn online during this time.
“We understand the reality of inequality in our city,” Deputy Mayor of Education Paul Kihn said.
According to a new DCPS tech survey, 44% of students still need devices – that’s more than 22,000 children.
“We have the capability to provide students devices and we have devices that are LTE-enabled and connected to the internet,” said Ferebee.
Officials said they will continue to monitor data and decide what the future of schools will be like for Term 2 on Nov. 9.
Several school districts in Maryland and Virginia have also decided to move all-virtual, including the most recent, Stafford County Public Schools and Frederick County Public Schools.
The District has been hesitant to progress to Phase 3 due to recent coronavirus data that shows an uptick in community spread. This led D.C. Health officials to adjust the threshold for moving into Phase 3.
Dr. Laquandra Nesbitt with D.C. Department of Public Health said that the District would like to see a positivity rate of under 5% before moving into Phase 3. Previously, the goal was set at 10%.
Mayor Bowser has since issued a mask and travel mandate to control the spread of the coronavirus and keep residents safe. Anyone leaving their homes must wear a mask in public in D.C. and those traveling to the District from a high-risk state will be required to self-quarantine for 14 days.
The travel order does not apply to neighboring states such as Virginia and Maryland.
The city continues to see an increase in percent positivity of coronavirus tests on people under 40, as well as the percentage of COVID-19 hospitalizations coming from that age group.