- The Washington Times - Monday, October 5, 2020

D.C. Public Schools officials said Monday that some elementary students will gradually return for in-person instruction next month.

An estimated 21,000 pre-kindergarten through fifth-grade students could return for in-person learning and activities with a phased reopening starting Nov. 9, DCPS Chancellor Lewis D. Ferebee said.

Two in-person options will be available for families with elementary students: regular classroom instruction and Canvas Academics and Real Engagement (CARE), in which students participate in small cohorts assigned to a staffer who is not their teacher and who will help them with online learning.

Families can opt to continue with fully remote online learning.

About 7,000 students could return for in-person classes, and about 14,000 could participate in CARE classrooms. Students selected for in-person instruction would attend school five days a week with a half-day on Wednesdays, beginning Nov. 9.

Those chosen for CARE classes would follow a similar schedule but start on different dates. Pre-kindergarteners and first-graders would start Nov. 16, and second- through fifth-graders would begin Nov. 30. Each classroom could host five to 11 students.

“We have a strong indication from family and staff that our youngest learners are a lot less independent and learning at home is a bit more challenging for them as it relates to the valuable screen time, interaction with their teachers virtually,” Mr. Ferebee said.

Meanwhile, about 9,000 elementary students are expected to continue learning virtually.

Schools will select students to be offered a classroom seat, and families can choose to accept or decline that seat. Students experiencing homelessness, who receive special education or who are English learners, or who are considered at-risk will be prioritized for classroom seats.

For those returning to classrooms, there will be temperature and health checks on arrival, designated entry points, provisions of hand sanitizers and face masks, staggered meal and recess times, and restricted interactions between classrooms of students.

The Washington Teachers’ Union, which represents almost 5,000 educators, expressed opposition to the plan on Monday.

“Our teachers have been clear No, we do not feel safe,” the union tweeted, along with an internal poll that found that 83% of 745 survey respondents think it will be unsafe to reopen schools on Nov. 9.

Members of the union on Saturday demonstrated outside of Mayor Muriel Bowser’s home, calling for a delay of in-person learning, WUSA-TV reported. The deadline for teachers to respond to a survey to ask for a virtual assignment has been extended to Tuesday evening.

Mr. Ferebee said DCPS doesn’t plan on bringing sixth- through 12th-graders back into classrooms until the third academic term, which starts in February.

If there is a COVID-19 case at a school, the school will follow health guidance on contact tracing, quarantine and cleaning, the chancellor said. The entire school community also will be informed about the positive case. Mr. Ferebee said DCPS will report the total number of staff and students who have tested positive for COVID-19 and are currently in quarantine.

Last month, DCPS started to allow some students back into buildings to use services offered at student support centers and participate in career and technical education programs through October.

While all instruction for DCPS students is taking place online for the first term, student support centers at selected schools are opening for small-group, in-person programs, which could include tutoring, physical education, outdoor learning experiences and social emotional support.

Officials also are working to update HVAC systems at public schools, with priority given to elementary schools, to get ready for in-person learning. DCPS said contractors will upgrade filters at all 80 elementary schools, 24 of which have open work orders for their HVAC systems.

All DCPS students began the school year fully online in August and will continue remote learning through Nov. 6.

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