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DC-CORE Statement on Reopening

The number of new COVID cases in the D.C. area continues to rise, driven primarily by the highly contagious Delta variant. We are also learning more about how the new variant affects young people including long-COVID and hospitalizations. In DC the inequities of who is getting sick and who is vaccinated are stark: In June the Washington City Paper cited data saying “5 percent of 12 to 15-year-olds in Ward 8 are at least partially vaccinated, while 67 percent of 12 to 15-year-olds in Ward 2 are.” Furthermore the vaccine has yet to be authorized for our students who are under 12, putting them at even greater risk. Currently, the 7-day average of new cases in D.C. is higher than it was a year ago. Educators, parents and students have asked questions regarding how DCPS will mitigate the risks this school year, and up to this point very little information has been shared.

Back to school is not “back to normal.” We have to prepare our schools for a new normal, one that prioritizes the health and safety of all alongside our students’ education. At the very least, the measures in place before reopening schools for full in-person instruction should include:

  • a fully enforced mask mandate for all individuals

  • provision of high quality masks to all in the building (N-95 or equivalent)

  • weekly COVID testing for all staff regardless of vaccination status

  • protections and full accommodations for any staff with autoimmune and other preexisting health conditions that place them at great risk from complications due to COVID

  • HVAC records

  • walk throughs and published reports from walk throughs

  • social distancing

  • procedure for isolating a symptomatic student or staff

  • provisions for parents and caregivers related to COVID protocols in other districts

  • explanation of COVID-related leave for those who must isolate

  • clarity on reporting at the school level (%'s not just raw #'s and the timeline of communicating cases)

  • a publicly available, detailed plan to move to all-virtual instruction should health metrics increase to a 7-day average of new cases above 200, which is the level last seen in the holiday surge of December and January

  • expanding the virtual option for parents/guardians who want it

If the past year has taught us anything, it is that we cannot rely on the Chancellor and the Mayor to make reliable decisions about what is best for students and teachers during this dangerous pandemic. Several times in the past, ill-conceived decisions about rushing to reopen schools were countermanded by the determined actions of our members working together. With everyone returning to buildings, the Delta variant surging, and vast numbers of children too young to vaccinate, we need to continue to be unified and proactive as we seek a safe and successful educational experience for all.

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