- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Mayor Muriel Bowser on Wednesday said she thinks that D.C. Public Schools eventually can have in-person small group learning for students although instruction during the first term of the current academic year is online only.

“I think DCPS can do it, and I think DCPS should do it,” Miss Bowser said Wednesday at a press conference, adding that she has asked education officials to survey public charter and independent schools that have adopted small group learning for their students.

“I don’t want to suggest that we have whole classrooms or whole grades or thousands of kids going back to a school,” Miss Bowser said. “Let me be clear: We believe that in-person learning is preferred to virtual learning, but we also know that we have to do it in a safe way.”

She said health data from charter schools that are hosting small group learning don’t seem to suggest issues with that instructional approach. Education officials are working on guidelines for bringing people back to school buildings, according to Miss Bowser.

More than 51,000 students enrolled in a D.C. public school began their fall term online on Aug. 31 out of precaution to the coronavirus pandemic.

DCPS has distributed more than 23,000 tech devices to families for the virtual term. The District also is providing free internet access for up to 25,000 low-income families with students enrolled in DCPS and public charter schools.

As of Wednesday, the D.C. Health Department recorded another 25 coronavirus cases and four more deaths. So far, 14,387 residents have been infected with COVID-19 and 615 have died from the virus.

Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt, director of the D.C. Health Department, told reporters that she would like to see improvement with some health metrics before suggesting the city move to phase three of reopening. The District has been in phase two of reopening since June 22.

The District also has partnered with Google and Apple to offer Exposure Notification Express, a contact tracing app that Maryland and Virginia are using.

On Tuesday, the mayor announced that the District qualifies for additional unemployment benefits from the federal government. Eligible unemployment insurance recipients could receive an extra $300 per week if they qualify for a weekly benefit of at least $100 per week. Recipients must certify that they are unemployed or partially unemployed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Unemployment insurance payments would be retroactive to Aug. 1. D.C. officials expect recipients will start receiving payments by the first week of October.

The District currently is approved for funding for additional assistance for three weeks rather than the total grant period, which runs until Dec. 27. Funds for the unemployment assistance come from disaster relief funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

While Miss Bowser thanked the federal government for the additional assistance, she urged Congress on Wednesday to restore the $600 weekly unemployment benefits as the coronavirus pandemic continues and to pass a stimulus package to boost the economy.

The D.C. Health Department this week also updated its list of high-risk states that require 14 days of self-quarantine for incomers who traveled for nonessential reasons. Montana and Ohio were added to the updated list, and Alaska and Arizona were removed.

High-risk states that require two weeks of self isolation are Alabama, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Wisconsin.

The list is effective until Sept. 21. Maryland and Virginia are exempt from the self-quarantine order.

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