The virtual learning will last at least through November 6.

On Thursday, July 30, Mayor Muriel Bowser announced that D.C. public schools will have a fully virtual start to the 2020 school year. This announcement reverses the District’s previous decision to provide a hybrid mix of virtual and in-person classes this fall.

"Our top priority and planning for this school year is, of course, the health and well-being of our students, staff, families, and community,” Deputy Mayor of Education Paul Kihn said. “We are moving forward with an all-virtual start to the school year for students in pre-K through the 12th grade, through Term 1, until Nov. 6.”

The announcement mirrors the decision of surrounding school districts, who all decided to pursue full-time distance learning in the fall. It also comes a week after the mayor announced stricter face mask requirements and a quarantine for individuals traveling to the District from identified coronavirus hotspots. 

However, the main reason the mayor’s office decided to abandon their previous decision was due to a combination of coronavirus statistics, the health and safety of the students and teachers, and opposition from the teacher’s union.

The Washington Teachers’ Union pushed back against the original plans to reopen schools in the fall, arguing that the school system had not properly addressed health and safety concerns and were not ready to safely reopen. Some district teachers even lined up "body bags" outside the school system offices to simulate what they believed would happen if the school system opened for in-person learning. 

body bags

Courtesy of rare.us

“We want to work with our workforce. We want to make sure that parents have confidence in an in-person option,” Mayor Bowser said. “We think that this two-month period is a good way to start.” 

D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Lewis Ferebee stated that over 200 teachers and school employees worked together throughout the summer to create a plan for virtual instruction. They have prepared attendance policies, schedules, and an extensive virtual curriculum that caters to each and every student. 

The Chancellor also stated that the District had been collecting information about students’ access to technology and found that out of 13,000 respondents, 44 percent of students do not have access to a suitable device at home. Therefore, the mayor’s office said that students without internet access or an at-home computer will be provided the technology needed to complete their studies. Deputy Mayor of Education Paul Kihn has also stated the District will continue to work with families who need in-person learning for the second term. 

Washington Teachers’ Union President Elizabeth Davis agrees with the District’s announcement to convert to full-time virtual learning. She believes that keeping the school buildings closed protects the health and safety of all teachers and students.

“We’ll continue to work to protect the health of our communities and will work to ensure that all students will have a positive virtual learning experience during the coming term,” Davis said.

So, how will you and your student prepare for distance learning this fall? Share your tips, recommendations, and stories with us in the comments!