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Mayor Muriel Bowser announced Monday that DC Public Schools are welcoming students enrolled in pre-kindergarten through fifth grade back for in-person instruction come November, or the beginning of Term 2. DCPS has the capacity to seat 21,000 students, and will use a lottery system to determine who gets a spot on campus. 

Priority will be given to students experiencing homelessness, those who require special education services, English learners, and those deemed “at-risk,” and then the rest. Families will learn if their kid got a spot and decide whether they want it at the end of October. 

DCPS estimates 7,000 students will be welcomed back on campus Nov. 9 for small group, in-person instruction five days a week, with a half day on Wednesdays. An estimated 14,000 students will also return five days a week on a staggered timeline in November for “CARE Classrooms.” Meaning most students will return to campus where they’ll be monitored by a staff member who is not their teacher but will support them with learning they’d do on a computer in the classrooms.  

Based on parent surveys over the summer, DCPS expects roughly 25 percent of the estimated 30,000 elementary students will opt to learn virtually at home.

“Families will always have the option to continue learning at home,” said Chancellor Dr. Lewis Ferebee at Monday’s press conference. 

Older students would not have the option to return to campus until Term 3 in February. View the mayor’s full presentation online HERE

But it’s unclear if DCPS will really move ahead with in-person learning come Nov. 9 without the support of its unions. Ferebee says he does “not want to play what if” when asked this very question. DCPS needs 34,000 staff to make in-person learning work. Ferebee says DCPS staff will be guaranteed a seat in school for in-person learning to relieve child care obligations workers could experience.  

Right now, the teachers’, principals’, and nurses’ union are all in agreement—they do not want students and staff to return to campuses unless their health and safety recommendations are met. The unions say their members do not have answers to questions like “Does the school have a full-time, on-site nurse?” and “Do all the classrooms have access to operable windows?” so they cannot make an informed decision on whether they want to return to school in person. Though, teachers were told to tell DCPS their preferred option of instruction for Term 2 by Tuesday or else their default choice will be to teach in person.   

“The shrouded secrecy is a major part of the problem,” Washington Teachers’ Union President Elizabeth Davis told City Paper ahead of the announcement. Davis did not know the mayor’s announcement regarding Term 2 was today. 

—Amanda Michelle Gomez (tips? agomez@washingtoncitypaper.com

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