WASHINGTON — DC Public School teachers will likely not be fully inoculated against COVID-19 by the time DCPS expects them to return to the classroom on Feb. 1.
DCPS staff are slated to receive their first dose of the vaccine on Jan. 25. But the second dose must be administered three weeks after the first, which means educators wouldn’t get that booster until at least Feb. 8.
“That's even if Jan. 25 actually happens,” Laura Fuchs, a teacher at H.D Woodson High school in Ward 7, said. “Do we have to sign up in the pool? Like the people who were 65 had to sign up and where? It took less than 24 hours and there were no more slots left for the week."
Fuchs said she still has lots of unanswered questions before she returns to her classroom for term 3.
“If most of my students are virtual, how can I ensure that I'm still continuing to give them really high-quality instruction?” Carolyn Fado, who is also expected to return to the Columbia Heights Education Campus for in-person learning, said.
Fado fears the surge in COVID cases makes this a dangerous time to return.
“I was hopeful that we'd be at a better situation in terms of COVID by this time,” she said.
The teachers’ concerns come on the National Day of Resistance, where union leaders from around the region held a rally and virtual news conference calling for a unified school plan.
“Staff need to know what vaccine is being provided, where and when,” Maggie Hansford from the Prince William County Education Association said.
Elizabeth Davis, president of the Washington Teachers’ Union, was there and said she feels DCPS has already “fallen out of compliance” with their MOU on the reopening of schools signed back in December.
“Many of our members feel like we’re building this plane while flying it,” Davis said. "And that puts us in a very distrusting position in terms of whether this plan is being guided by science and health or if it’s being guided by political pressure.”
Fuchs said that if she were fully vaccinated before she was expected to return to the classroom, she'd feel a lot better.
“I would volunteer even for a bad plan and take someone else's spot, if I'm vaccinated,” she said. "I really struggle with the thought that I'd have to go in Feb. 1 unvaccinated for a plan that I don't think has educational benefit, and puts me and the students in that room [at risk]. Feb. 1 is arbitrary. I get it's the start of term three. But that's arbitrary when it comes to COVID-19. That has nothing to do with the reality of the health situation.”
DCPS Chancellor Lewis Ferebee emailed WUSA9 a statement in response.
“We are confident that the plans developed in partnership with our individual school communities will ensure a safe return to in-person learning. We remain focused on equity and providing in-person academic experiences for the students who need it most. DCPS is eager to welcome students back into school buildings for Term 3 and will continue to work with our partners at DC Health to coordinate the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine to teachers beginning in Phase 1b.”