I’m the parent of a Tubman PreK student, and my husband Josh and I wrote the letter linked below to Chancellor Ferebee voicing concerns about DCPS’ reopening plan.”
DCPS Reopening: Parent Concerns Sign-on Letter
“Dear Chancellor Ferebee,
As the parents of more than [XX] DCPS students, we, the undersigned, write to express our profound concerns with the announced plans for a phased reopening of Washington D.C.’s public schools beginning on November 9, 2020. The following four issues highlight our deepest worries:
–The health and safety plan DCPS will be implementing to protect students, teachers, and staff from COVID-19 is vague and falls well short of plans adopted by other major school districts that have attempted some form of in-person schooling. Less than two weeks before 21,000 students and 3,600 adults are set to return to school, details pertaining to testing, quarantine measures for students who test positive while on school premises, and mask-wearing have not been shared with parents. We join numerous DC Councilmembers in voicing lack of faith in the health and safety plan.
–The absence of deep, inclusive engagement and consultation with teachers and school administrators in developing, refining, and rolling out the latest reopening plans has led to confusion and a lack of buy-in and support from the District’s most critical employees.
–The community and trust-building progress that teachers have worked so hard to achieve during Term One–and over the past year and a half, for pre-K learners–are likely to be eliminated, since many students would be separated from their teachers.
–The timing, content, and mode of communications has been extremely problematic:
->Online town halls are inherently not inclusive–many have been scheduled at dinnertime–and most comments and questions go unaddressed by either presenters or moderators. An Oct. 21 press conference was publicized neither to parents nor to teachers.
->The announcement of plans for upcoming terms, both in mid-August and now, were nothing but sketched outlines. Exact details have remained undisclosed until one week before parents will not only learn for the first time what options are available to their students, but must also decide how and whether such options can work given current circumstances.
Given these serious concerns, we offer up the following five recommendations:
–Delay the start of in-person learning until Term Three (February 1, 2021) due to the growing number of COVID-19 cases in the region, the onset of flu season, and two major holiday breaks that will almost immediately disrupt the reopening process (Thanksgiving and Christmas/New Year’s).
–During this delay, survey DCPS teachers and hold focus groups composed of teachers from all grade levels and all wards to gather their recommendations and insights. Publish the results of these surveys and focus groups to parents and the public in a timely manner.
–Keep students with their teachers. Do not use middle and high school staff and administrators to supervise elementary students who would be separated from their teachers under the current reopening plan.
–For students identified as high risk and/or high need, gather input from parents and/or caretakers to determine what would be most helpful in terms of restarting in-person learning. Adopt multiple outreach strategies, including email, phone, and in-person visits as possible to ascertain that vulnerable members of the community have been contacted. Publish the results of this outreach to the public in a timely manner.
–Communicate weekly with parents about the planning process including plans under consideration, plans considered and rejected (and why), and expected timelines for making decisions and announcements.
In writing, we also wish to recognize that DCPS faces many difficult trade-offs in determining how and when to reopen schools. However, because of the way the Chancellor’s Office and the Mayor’s Office have made decisions, we lack confidence in the outcome. Parent and teacher engagement should have been central to this process, not an afterthought.
We hope that you will take our concerns seriously.
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