DC-CORE Member Sophia Baratta Testimony for the SBOE on Reopening
Testimony before the State Board of Education
By Sophia Baratta: Teacher at Hendley Elementary (DCPS), active WTU member, DC-Core Member, EmpowerEd Opportunity Fellow, Ward 5 Resident
Given: Wednesday, August 18, 2021
Last school year, DCPS first tried to reopen in August, with a plan that was physically impossible to implement. When we did reopen, it was allegedly up to each school how to operate, while many teachers were told that their administration was following DCPS guidelines and policies, DCPS failed to meet CDC guidelines as agreed upon in the MOA with testing students. Some schools had testing for teachers available on site, others did not. It was chaotic. As teachers and parents prepare for this coming school year, we’re looking for guidance in ensuring this year is not a repeat of last school year.
After reading through the recently released MOA between WTU and DCPS and listening to the mayor's situational update today, I’m realizing how little information we still have and most importantly how little of the community’s requests have been ignored or refused by the mayor and chancellor. During the mayor’s update, many people have sent in requests in the comments for a virtual option for students. A petition has gone out by parents as well. This request has been ignored and a virtual option for students unable to get vaccinated is not being considered. Meanwhile NYTimes has reported that 79% of districts are offering virtual options due to growing concerns of the new variant spreading. There was no mention of the Delta variant in the update. Why are we refusing to adjust to the current climate and prepare for any potential issues?
This is the same strategy deployed by the district – provide a positive public narrative while leaving educators and parents in the dark by refusing to answer our questions or address our concerns. Questions we still need answers to include:
Why is the district not considering virtual options for parents requesting it or for students under 12?
What percentage of infections and/or quarantines will lead to a virtual transition?
What would a virtual transition look like?
Will all teachers have access to testing kits weekly, regardless of vaccination status?
How will DCPS ensure the proper percentage of students are being tested with reported results?
Will DCPS and other school staff have access to booster shots in the coming months, as health officials are recommending?
Has DCPS explored outdoor learning and eating options? If so, how will they support this?
I ask that these questions are accurately answered prior to reopening so both staff and parents are informed on procedures and can keep as many people safe as possible.