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D.C. Public Schools Will Go All-Virtual Until At Least November

July 30, 2020 by Gaspard Le Dem
District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser wears a face mask to protect against the spread of the coronavirus outbreak, as she leaves a news conference on the coronavirus and the District's response, Monday, July 20, 2020 in Washington. In the face of newly rising infection numbers, Bowser says she'll issue an executive order making face masks mandatory outside the home. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

WASHINGTON – District of Columbia officials on Thursday announced that D.C. public schools will hold all classes remotely until the end of the fall semester’s first term on November 6.

The decision comes after several neighboring school districts, including Montgomery County, Fairfax County, and Loudoun County, announced similar plans for an all-virtual start to the academic school year.

Earlier in July, District officials had revealed a “hybrid” learning plan for the fall semester that would have given students the option to take all classes online or to combine in-person and remote learning.

But the D.C. region — like much of the country — has over the last few weeks seen a resurgence in coronavirus cases, with hotspots emerging in areas like Maryland’s Ocean City and Virginia’s Hampton Roads region.

“We think that this two-month period is a good way to start,” said D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, speaking at a press conference on Thursday morning.

Bowser said that coronavirus statistics were just one part of the decision to go all-virtual, and that parental concerns, staffing, and the availability of school facilities also played a role. “There are a lot of things that a system the size of DCPS has to consider when making these decisions,” she said.

Deputy Mayor of Education Paul Kihn said that officials would continue to consider a return to in-person classes for the second half of the fall semester. “Our top priority in planning for this school year is of course the health and well-being of our students, staff, families and community,” said Kihn. “We all understand that this school year will require flexibility from everyone.”

Kihn said the District would make sure that all students have a way to access virtual classes before the start of the school year. “We are committed to getting every student who needs a device or Internet access to the tools they need to successfully participate in virtual learning.”

D.C. Public Schools has already received more than 13,000 responses in a survey to determine how many students will need additional technology to join online classes.

Kihn stressed that students should be prepared to return to virtual classes, and that attendance would be taken on a daily basis. “We want to be extremely clear about what we’re announcing today,” he said. “School is in session and I want to remind everyone that schooling is compulsory.”

D.C. School Chancellor Lewis Ferebee said that online classes will be taught live and that students will continue to be graded on both performance and participation. Teachers will review students’ progress and provide feedback through regular “learning checks,” he said.

After raising concerns that a hybrid reopening plan could put the health of students and staff at risk, the Washington Teachers’ Union on Thursday applauded the DCPS decision to cancel in-person classes. 

“I’d like to thank the mayor and chancellor for putting the health of our teachers, students and communities at the forefront and delaying the resumption of in-person learning to begin the 2020-2021 school year,” said WTU President Elizabeth Davis in a statement. “Over the coming days, we’ll be working with D.C. Public Schools to better understand the proposed schedules for students as we begin the new school year.” 

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