As we return to our classrooms for a full week of school, I know that many of you are nervous about the surge in COVID-19 cases fueled by the spread of the Omicron variant. We continue to fight DCPS to turn “what to do if” concerns into policies that you can count on.
We should be proud that due to our activism DC is one of only a few jurisdictions that implemented a “test to return” policy for students and staff. The Chicago Teachers have also made this key demand, but they have not achieved it (read more here).
As you enter your classrooms tomorrow, all educators and students who failed to submit a negative test result last week must submit one. DCPS has arranged for testing to be available on-site. Your WTU Contract Team negotiated to require DCPS to provide mail-in self testing kits every week for all teachers; you should receive information this week on how to obtain your test. Any educator who shows symptoms while at a school building should be tested on site. Due to our advocacy, educators who are instructed to quarantine may work remotely and not use sick leave. All educators should have received KN-95 masks. If you did not receive a KN95 mask, please reach out to your field representative.
We know that DCPS’s policies do not go far enough and we continue to press the Mayor and the Chancellor to meet national best practices, including weekly testing. We also remain disappointed that DCPS has failed to meet city mandates to test 20% of students. We remain adamant that school and city officials have a written plan on how they will handle outbreaks to ensure the health and safety of all teachers, staff and students. In addition to all that we have won, I have made it clear to Chancellor Ferebee that the plan should include:
- A more effective way of contact tracing, testing and notifying the community, including teachers of positive COVID-19 cases.
- The criteria for determining the threshold upon which a school is closed, such as how many teachers and students are infected and quarantined.
- A commitment to distribute tech devices that students can take home in case their school building is closed and must return to remote learning.
As educators, we know the importance of continuing in-person education for our students. We also know that our schools must be kept safe for our students as well as our staff. Please don’t allow those presenting dooms day scenarios prey on your fears. We are continuing to ensure that our school settings are as safe as they can be during these trying times.
Please let myself or your Field Representatives know if you have any questions or concerns.
Jacqueline Pogue Lyons, President
Washington Teachers’ Union