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This DC charter school spent nearly half a million dollars in COVID-19 renovations for safety

Here are some of the changes coming to Digital Pioneers Academy.

WASHINGTON — More students are heading back to class in the coming days and weeks. In Southeast D.C., one charter school has had nearly a half-million dollars worth of renovations in an attempt to keep their students safe as they prepare for in-person learning for the first time in 18 months.

Digital Pioneers Academy will begin its fourth year providing a unique learning experience for students. 

Their curriculum includes traditional topics like math and language arts, in addition, scholars also have a 45-minute computer engineering course. Their goal is to make sure their students don’t just consume the digital economy, but they become a part of creating it.

“At Digital Pioneers Academy we say we think thoughtfully, creatively, and critically about complex problems. That's what innovators do. And if COVID is not a complex problem, I don't know what is,”  said Mashea Ashton, founder and principal of the school.

One of the first changes students and parents will notice will be the temperature check when they walk through the doors.

“We will have spent close to about a half of a million dollars, probably, even more, to get this building really ready for the maximum number of students,” Ashton said.

During the last year, Ashton said they’ve been gearing up for the return of safe in-person learning. She said her team is nearly 80% fully vaccinated.

“This is called an air troffer, it purifies the air. The city actually requires at least three air exchanges per minute, we've actually got troffers that have four exchanges per minute as well as you can see over here, an air purifying system,” Ashton added.

This location houses scholars from 7th to 9th grade. They’ve also renovated classrooms to allow more light into each room as well as added more bathrooms to their second floor. When students head back to class, in addition to daily temperature checks, there will be weekly COVID-19 tests.

“When we return back, it's not going to be the same. I don't know if we'll ever go back to the same, but our scholars will have meals in their classrooms with their cohort and it'll be socially distanced,” Ashton said.

Their goal is to be 100% in-person for the 2021-2022 school year, the digitally savvy school said they’re prepared in the event there’s a need for remote learning.

“We are working on a, I would call it, a hybrid version where our scholars will be able to Zoom into the instruction so they will not miss a beat. But if you're sick, you're sick, and that's okay. So missing school if you have a sickness is okay but we're going to work really hard to catch you up as well,” Ashton said.

RELATED: What schools can learn from teachers and staff who have returned to in-person learning early

RELATED: Hundreds of students picked private or homeschooling in the pandemic at Alexandria public schools. Now, ACPS is working to get them back in class

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