The D.C. Public Schools system is poised to return to in-person instruction despite some concerns among parents, teachers and advocates that the coronavirus pandemic in the District has not been contained enough to return to school buildings.
“DCPS has remained grounded in the firm belief that a safe and healthy in-person learning opportunity is the best way to teach and reach our students who are facing significant barriers to success in virtual learning,” schools Chancellor Lewis Ferebee said Thursday at a D.C. Council Committee of the Whole public roundtable, WTOP reported. “We know this is particularly important for our younger learners as gaps in early literacy, social and emotional development, and access to quality learning experiences, have long-term impact on student success.”
Presently, 79 schools offer in-person instruction to nearly 1,000 pupils throughout the District. The school system plans to expand its in-person instruction program, adding another 4,000 students on Feb. 1.
The goal is to get back to in-person instruction at the start of the school system’s third grading quarter, WTOP reported. However, testimony at the roundtable revealed anxiety and doubt about the return.
Council Chairman Phil Mendelson weighed in, asking Dr. Ankoor Shah, deputy director of the city health department and a pediatrician who serves as the Bowser administration’s lead on vaccination efforts, whether returning to in-person instruction is safe. Shah said yes.
“What we know now compared to what we knew in March is completely different,” Shah said, WTOP reported. “If you are able to put these safety measures in place, the risk of actually having COVID-19 spread in an in-person education setting is much lower.”
Ferebee added the American Association of Pediatrics also recommends continuing to reopen schools and says that schools are not contributing to transmission in the community at large.
As of Friday, the city has reported 34,905 coronavirus cases and 867 virus-related deaths, according to health department statistics. Of the total cases, 4,079, or 12%, were residents 19 or younger, though no deaths have been reported in that age range.