- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 18, 2021

District officials on Wednesday outlined safety protocols for students and families as city schools prepare to open their doors in less than two weeks.

Safety protocols include universal masking, regular testing, quarantine procedures and enhanced filtration and cleaning for District public schools as the city welcomes back students for in-person learning on Aug. 30.

“As everyone knows, working together is going to take the entire community to make this school year successful. We have prepared a robust series of layered protocols that we have developed over the course of the year as we have brought children and staff safely back to schools,” said Mayor Muriel Bowser at Wednesday’s briefing. “We know that we can successfully reunite our students with their teachers, classmates, coaches, counselors, mentors and friends, and we expect that throughout the school year a range of health and safety protocols will be activated.”

Christina Grant, acting superintendent of education, said D.C. Public Schools will strive to test a random sample of 10% to 20% of unvaccinated students and all unvaccinated staff weekly.

School staff have until Sept. 19 to show proof of vaccination or undergo weekly testing. All students and staff must provide consent to be tested.

If someone tests positive for COVID-19, Ms. Grant said that person should not attend school and isolate for at least 10 days and see improvement of symptoms, including no fever for 24 hours.

Vaccinated students and staff who have close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19, but don’t show symptoms do not need to quarantine. However, they are recommended to get tested three to five days after exposure.

Schools will notify families about positive cases within their students’ classrooms and schools. While families will not be told which individual tested positive, they will know if the positive case was in their classroom or within the school.

As another safety measure, all students, staff and visitors will be required to wear a face mask on school grounds including outside during recess, DCPS Chancellor Lewis Ferebee said.

Masks can be removed for eating and drinking. Pre-kindergarten students can also remove face coverings for napping, he said.

Students will be required to wear masks while playing sports and must physically distance if possible, added Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt, D.C.’s health director.

City officials also discouraged families from traveling outside of the region while school is in session. They urged parents to conduct daily health screenings of their students as a way to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Visitors to school campuses will be limited, and parents are not allowed in buildings to pick up or drop off their students unless it’s part of a written safety plan. Along with HVAC upgrades, every classroom has a small filtration unit with a medical-grade filter to clean the air, Mr. Ferebee noted.

All students in grades 3 and up will be given their own tech devices that they can take home if need be such as for quarantine.

About 15,000 DCPS students participated in in-person learning last year while nearly 12,000 students completed in-person learning over the summer, according to city officials.

• Shen Wu Tan can be reached at stan@washingtontimes.com.

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