Toward the latter part of November, hundreds of elementary schoolers returned to District classrooms as part of an arrangement that D.C. Public Schools (DCPS) officials said will meet the needs of parents struggling to balance work obligations and the facilitation of their children’s virtual learning experience.
Despite some community members’ apprehensions about the launch of Canvas Academics and Real Engagement (CARE) classrooms amid a resurgence in COVID-19 cases, some school leaders who’ve embarked on this journey said they’ve taken the proper measures to protect students and staff members.
“We had to ensure that our custodians were being trained, going to webinars and receiving the right type of professional development on how to keep a building safe and secure,” said Lisa Rosado, principal of Savoy Elementary School in Southeast, one of 25 District public schools that launched CARE classrooms on Nov. 18.
Rosado recently led DCPS Chancellor Lewis Ferebee on a tour of Savoy, during which the duo and others watched three groups of no more than eight students, at socially distanced desks, engaging in virtual learning while under the supervision of a staff member.
Each classroom had copious amounts of hand sanitizer, wipes and other cleaning materials. In the hallways, staff members stationed at desks helped coordinate the movement of students between their classroom and a specifically designated restroom. As has long been the case, visitors also had their temperatures taken before entering the premises.
Rosado said these plans jelled together immediately after Ferebee and D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser approached her about hosting CARE classrooms at Savoy.
“We were given a wait-list and called each parent to ask if they wanted to join us,” Rosado told The Informer.
“We had to create a master schedule that meets the needs of our CARE and virtual students. We did a building walk-through with our LSAT and WTU members,” added Rosado, in her fourth year as principal at Savoy.
As of Dec. 1, the District has recorded more than 21,800 coronavirus cases and 690 COVID-19-related deaths.
Earlier this year, the DCPS central office and Bowser revealed that, despite reneging on reopening plans for Term 2, they would maintain CARE classrooms as a resource for students in need of supervised instruction.
The second phase of CARE classrooms launched this week with subsequent phases scheduled to begin during the weeks of Dec. 9 and Jan. 6. Other sites that joined Savoy include Brightwood Education Campus in Northwest, and Stanton Elementary, Moten Elementary and Excel Academy in Southeast.
With nearly 50 CARE classrooms currently open, DCPS officials are hinting at the addition of spaces to meet parents’ demands. During Phase I of this experience, classroom facilitators are staff members from the school in which the CARE classroom is located. Subsequent phases will most likely include temporary hires and additional DCPS staff.
These plans differed from DCPS’ initial plans that, much to the chagrin of Local School Advisory Teams (LSAT), would have transferred middle and high school staff members to the elementary schools hosting CARE classrooms.
In response to that proposal, McKinley Technology High School’s LSAT, after conferring with another on-campus parent group and others around the District, railed against the proposed reshuffling of staff members. In October, parents wrote a letter requesting a meeting with Bowser and Ferebee about the issue, and the overarching question of how to safely reopen schools. That, in addition to other complaints, compelled the DCPS central office to change direction.
“We will likely at some point have staff members from our middle and high schools but we have changed the scope of that work based on the feedback from our principals who thought it would compromise their operations,” Ferebee told The Informer. “We’re still working with our middle and high school principles to identify the right people.”