D.C. Public Schools students in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade will be learning remotely this fall, starting Aug. 31 and through Nov. 6, officials announced Thursday.
“Our top priority in planning for this school year is of course the health and well-being of our students, staff, families and communities,” Deputy Mayor of Education Paul Kihn said at a press conference. “We all understand that this school year will require flexibility from everyone.
“I want to reassure you also that all of the families that said they wanted in-person options and all of the educators who have shared their desire to be with and work with the students the most that we will continue to plan for in-person options for term two,” Mr. Kihn said.
In response to concerns about internet access and devices for online learning, Mr. Kihn said that DCPS began distributing devices last year and has continued to do so.
About 44% of students have indicated they do not have a device or access to a device at home, a DCPS tech survey found. The survey results also show that about 18% of respondents reported not having access to a Wi-Fi hot spot or reliable internet service.
Parents and students can visit bit.ly/dcpstechsurvey to share their tech and internet needs and can contact their schools.
Virtual learning for students will include a mix of live lessons with classmates that will follow a “predictable schedule” and also blocks of time set aside for independent learning. Teachers also will include social emotional development activities into their lesson plans, said DCPS Chancellor Lewis D. Ferebee. Extra school days also have been added to each academic term.
The chancellor on Thursday said that students with special education needs or who need English language support can still receive those required services.
The latest enrollment data show that more than 51,000 students were enrolled in DCPS for the 2019-2020 academic year.
The coronavirus has sickened 12,057 people in the District and killed 584 as of Thursday, according to the D.C. Health Department.
Mayor Muriel Bowser said the District’s health metrics aren’t the only reasons for the decision behind the all virtual start to the school year.
“Clearly, we want to work with our workforce. We want to make sure that parents have confidence in an in-person option and then make sure when we do have an in-person option that we can maximize the attendance of our teachers and our kids,” Miss Bowser said. “So we think this two-month period is a good way to start.”
The second term for D.C. schools will start Nov. 9. Schools have been closed since mid-March.
Charter LEAs (local education agencies) do not fall under the jurisdiction of DCPS and will make their own decisions about opening schools.
While each charter school is authorized to make its own academic schedule, Mr. Kihn has said that many charter school leaders have told him that they want to work on the same schedule as public schools.
DCPS joins the other school districts in the greater metropolitan area that have opted to provide only online instruction for the fall semester due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Public schools in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties will provide only distance learning for the start of the academic year, beginning Aug. 31.
Fairfax, Arlington and Loudoun counties will begin the school year Sept. 8 with online-only instruction.
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