Dear WTU members,
In my continuing effort to ensure a safe return to schools next week, I want to let you know the latest information.
As I outlined in a letter to you last week, I have asked Chancellor Ferebee, Mayor Bowser’s staff and the City Council to develop a written plan on handling COVID-19 outbreaks in DC public schools, including the threshold for closing a school, testing, contact tracing and access to tech devices.
Last week, the chancellor and mayor announced a safety plan that includes testing requirements for all school staff and students—a plan that I believe is based on WTU’s persistence.
- On Monday, Jan. 3, all DCPS school staff must pick up a free rapid COVID-19 self-test before 12 noon (or their own testing option) at their DCPS school and administer it by 1 p.m. on Monday.
- Students, parents or guardians must pick up a test at a DCPS school or at a Test-Yourself pickup site on Monday, Jan. 3, between 1 pm – 4 pm or on Tuesday, Jan. 4, between 8:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. Students’ tests must be uploaded by 4 p.m. on Tuesday.
- School starts Wed., Jan. 5. Everyone returning to DCPS schools must show a negative test result before coming back to school.
We also have learned that all school staff will receive KN-95 masks.
DCPS and the mayor said they do not expect to close all schools amid the recent COVID surge. However, they said they would close individual schools on a case-by-case basis, based on staff availability and the percentage of students and staff in quarantine. We continue to urge school and mayoral staff to develop a written plan with specific details, including what will happen for students and staff who fail to submit a negative test by the deadlines, and thresholds for closing schools as soon as possible to avoid chaos and confusion.
We are also continuing to call for DCPS to grant teachers, who are unable to work because of a COVID infection, special “COVID leave” so they do not have to use their sick leave.
I pledge to continue to work with the chancellor, the mayor’s office and City Council on these and other issues that are high priority for all of us.
Soon after we return from the winter break, I will schedule a Town Hall for all members. I know there are numerous questions and concerns about health and safety and other issues. Please watch your email for details in the coming days.
Again, please know that the WTU continues to stay focused on helping you stay healthy and be able to do the best you can for your students. I look forward to seeing all of you in 2022.
Jacqueline Pogue Lyons, President
Washington Teachers' Union