- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 27, 2020

The Washington Teachers Union says it’s still negotiating with D.C. Public Schools officials on the plan to reopen schools as early as next month.

The Public Employee Relations Board (PERB) ruled last week that DCPS had five days to “commence bargaining” with the union over its plan to bring nearly 21,000 randomly selected students in pre-kindergarten through fifth grade back to classrooms next month.

The board also ordered the District to rescind a form and survey sent to teachers regarding their intent to return in-person that was used to help determine staffing for DCPS reopening plans.

DCPS issued a statement to The Washington Times: “DCPS is rescinding both the survey and the overview of health and safety protocols which were located on the landing page of the staffing assignment survey. The survey is being rescinded this evening.”

The city is not required to reach an agreement with the union to carry on the plan, but PERB can take other actions “to ensure DCPS’ compliance with its bargaining obligations.”

The DCPS “Reopen Strong” phased plan offers two at-school instruction options, which include students being taught in-person by a teacher or virtually in a Canvas Academics and Real Engagement classroom supervised by a staff member.

As of Tuesday afternoon, more than 5,500 people had signed an online union petition to maintain virtual learning “until the health protections” outlined by the WTU, the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, and the D.C. Office of the State Superintendent of Education are met.

In Maryland, the Montgomery County School Board on Tuesday held a public hearing on reopening plans, and parent Olga Schans said in written testimony that online learning “has not been a good experience” for her child in eighth grade.

“Kids don’t move around, play sport(s), [or] socialize with friends in this virtual learning program,” Ms. Schans wrote. “Moreover, parents are unable to work because many must support their kids’ learning on a daily basis.”

Montgomery County Public Schools have not yet set a date to go back to in-person learning. According to the MCPS website, officials will “reassess” at the end of the first quarter on Nov. 9 “if we are able to implement a phased blended model in the second semester,” which begins Feb. 1.

However, Gov. Larry Hogan has said that schools can reopen, and the Maryland State Education Association on Monday called upon state officials to provide standardized procedures for virus cases on campus.

Meanwhile, Virginia’s largest school district has allowed some students to return for in-person instruction since the beginning of October, including those in specialized career prep and special education.

Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Scott Braband’s phased plan will allow more children in specialized career prep and special education to return in November, as well as students in second grade and below.

Students will have the option to remain learning online or to receive “concurrent instruction,” in which they will have two days of in-person classes and two days of virtual classes. Those who choose the concurrent model will “‘log into’ class on at-home days,” according to the website.

Students in higher grades will remain virtual until next year. The Fairfax County School Board voted 6-6 on Mr. Braband’s proposal earlier this month, and he is scheduled on Nov. 12 to present a plan to potentially bring those students back earlier.

The Fairfax Education Association launched an online petition to maintain virtual learning for the remainder of the 2020-21 school year. As of Tuesday afternoon, it had received just over 1,500 of the 1,600 signatures sought.

• Emily Zantow can be reached at ezantow@washingtontimes.com.

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