#OnlyWhenItsSafe

Washington D.C. Teachers and Community Members Share Their Concerns About Plans to Re-Open Schools to In-Person Learning

 

WASHINGTON—Deeply concerned about the health and safety of teachers, students and the community if schools reopen without clear and enforceable health protocols, Washington D.C. teachers and community members gathered in front of the John A. Wilson Building on Tuesday morning. Attendees called on Mayor Muriel Bowser and District of Columbia Public Schools Chancellor Lewis Ferebee to re-open only when it is safe. 

“Our city’s teachers want to return to the classroom,” WTU President Elizabeth Davis said. “However, they are concerned for their personal health and that of their families, students and communities. This disease has a disproportionate impact on African American families and we must ensure that we have strong and transparent health protocols in place if we’re to consider reopening schools. Today, I wouldn’t feel comfortable returning to a classroom.”

“In 2011, I had a heart attack in my classroom. My students saw me wheeled out of my room on a stretcher,” shared Christian Herr, who has been teaching for 11 years. “My cardiologist has made it very clear to me that the risk of death from COVID is greater for people with hearts like mine. Even if I were to catch and survive it, it's more likely that my heart would never be the same. More likely that I would lose years with my wife or that my students would again see me rolled out of my room on a stretcher, although this time, I might not come back.“

Teachers unrolled a 100-foot banner displaying more than 150 stories like Christian’s, and read each story aloud.

The full press release is available here.

Some of their concerns follow:

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Covid Transmission Research

The Current Science of COVID-19 Transmission:

July 19, 2020

Steve Donkin, Ph.D.

Science Teacher - Cardozo Education Campus

 

Returning students and teachers to school buildings at this point in the COVID-19 pandemic will almost certainly lead to a spike in infections and cause more deaths.  This paper provides a summary of the current scientific literature on the infectivity and transmission of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 disease.  As outlined below, there remain many unknowns about this virus, and any decision about allowing students and teachers back together in schools must be driven by what the science tells us.

 

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Reimagining Security in Schools

As the Council of the District of Columbia prepares to vote on the FY2021 budget, the WTU supports the transfer of oversight of school security contracts from the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) to DC Public Schools (DCPS).

 

WTU Statement on Re-envisioning Safety in School Communities

 

Dear Chairman Mendelson & Chairman Grosso,

Our schools provide vital nutrition, physical safety, mental health, and critical developmental supports to tens of thousands of students across the District every day. In light of the continued unrest in our country and calls to reform policing practices, it is evident that it is time our city embraces change to, as DCPS’ mission states, ensure that every school guarantees students reach their full potential through rigorous and joyful learning experiences provided in a nurturing environment.

The Washington Teachers’ Union (WTU) supports maintaining direct DCPS authority over contract security and school resource officer contracts. We further believe DCPS needs to reduce these contracts and reallocate funding to invest in the social-emotional health of our school communities.... read the full statement here.

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Statement - ReOpen Schools #OnlyWhenItsSafe

Washington DC Teachers’ Release Petition & Statement Regarding Announcement of DC Public Schools’ Reopening Plans

WASHINGTON — The Washington Teachers’ Union (WTU), joined by more than 4,000 educators and District residents, released the following statement:

 

To Mayor Bowser and DCPS Chancellor Ferebee:

It is your responsibility, during the current health pandemic, to ensure the health and physical safety of those you serve.

I stand with educators and the Washington Teachers’ Union (WTU) in their decision to engage only in distance learning until the health protections in the WTU Memorandum of Agreement and set by the CDC and OSSE are fully met and implemented in collaboration with WTU.

For the good of the community, DC must have clear protocols in place to protect the health of our students, teachers, school staff and communities as we reopen our schools to in-person learning.

The list of signatories is attached below.

 

 

Statement from WTU President Elizabeth Davis:

The District of Columbia’s educators and students are eager to return to our classrooms and schools. Educators miss their students, and students miss their teachers and friends. We all miss our school communities – they are so much more than places to learn. Schools provide vital nutrition, physical safety, mental health and critical developmental supports to tens of thousands of students across the District every day....

... Read More Here.

 

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Washington DC Teachers’ Opposes DCPS “Return to Work Guidelines”

WASHINGTON — The Washington Teachers’ Union (WTU) was made aware late today that teachers received “Return to In-Person Work Guidelines” from DC Public Schools.

 

Statement from WTU President Elizabeth Davis:

“I was disappointed to learn that DCPS has sent teachers “Return to Work Guidance,” prior to providing a fully developed plan for how we safely and effectively resume instruction in the fall. The WTU received these guidelines hours before they were released to the teachers and did not have an opportunity to provide meaningful feedback to the proposal.

Washington’s Teachers fully support efforts to return to in-person learning, but it must be done in a manner that protects the health of our teachers, students and communities. Just last week, the WTU released a set of recommendations developed by nearly 400 teachers that provide guidance for how we can safely and effectively re-open our schools. Unfortunately, DCPS has decided to move forward without engaging the Union, our members, or the community in a meaningful dialogue about what education in our public schools will look like in the fall.

Chancellor Ferebee promised to “Move at the Speed of Trust” last spring when he was appointed as the new DCPS Chancellor. Unfortunately, this move has eroded any trust that he has managed to build with teachers. I ask that DCPS rescind the “Return to Work Guidance” and enter into a meaningful dialogue with teachers about the safe resumption of in-person learning. The WTU also requests that DCPS release the full results of parent, student and teacher survey results to help our city understand the enrollment trends and needs in our schools.

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In addition to health and safety recommendations, the WTU Reopen Report also makes recommendations about improvements to Distance Learning. To help improve student participation and bridge the Digital Divide, the WTU calls for an increased investment of $11 million to ensure all DCPS K-12 students receive a computer or tablet in the District’s Fiscal Year 2021 budget.

 

The WTU report is available in its entirety at https://www.wtulocal6.net/reopen_dc_taskforce_report        

 

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Reopen DC Taskforce Report

 

Washington DC Teachers Release Report to Safely Reopen Schools

Teachers outline ways to protect teacher and student health while improving distance learning

 

WASHINGTON — Concerned about the lack of teacher input into conversations about how we safely reopen schools in the District of Columbia, the Washington Teachers’ Union (WTU) released recommendations for how the District can work with teachers to ensure their safety and improve the education of DC students as the city reopens schools for instruction.

“The move to close our schools and move to Distance Learning in the spring was the right choice,” WTU President Elizabeth Davis said. “However, Distance Learning shined new light on the widespread opportunity gaps and the digital divide that plagues our city. As we move to reopen our schools this summer, we must do so in a way that protects the health of our teachers, students and communities while also investing in our technology infrastructure.”

The WTU convened a taskforce of more than 200 teachers to make recommendations that seek to ensure the health of teachers, students and families as the District resumes in-person learning this summer, against the general guidelines outlined in the city’s Reopen DC Committee report that recommends continued Distance Learning through Phase 3 of the reopening.

“We recognize the importance of reopening our schools as the first step in restarting our economy,” Davis continued. “We must do so with our teacher and other front line voices at the center of the conversation to prevent an increase in infections.”

The WTU taskforce also makes recommendations about improvements to Distance Learning, with the understanding that many students will not be able to return to school full-time in the 2020-21 school year due to social distancing requirements. To help improve student participation, the WTU calls for an increased investment of $11 million to ensure all DCPS students receive a computer or tablet in the District’s Fiscal Year 2021 budget.

The WTU report is available in its entirety here.

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FY2021 Budget Statement

DC City Council

Joint Budget (Fiscal Year 2021) Oversight Hearing:

Committee on Education & Committee of the Whole

June 4, 2020

 

Testimony of Elizabeth A. Davis, President

Washington Teachers’ Union

 

The novel coronavirus and the subsequent school closures have made clear that schools play an outsized role in our community — they are so much more than places to learn. Schools provide vital nutrition, physical safety, mental health and critical developmental supports to tens of thousands of students across the District every day.

Rodney King, Malice Wayne Green, Abner Louima, Amadou Diallo, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Freddie Gray, Philando CastileAhmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor.

George Floyd.

These names are a call to action. They remind us that – as W.E.B. DuBois said “A system cannot fail those it was never meant to protect.” It is time that we embrace change and move beyond simple rhetoric.

I am a teacher. I believe our students are only limited by the opportunities that we provide them. Our school systems should be the great equalizer. Our schools must be a place where students can come and learn, a place where they can rise up and achieve. Unfortunately, here in the District of Columbia, we have a two-tiered system of education. And the inequities and the gaps are continuing to grow. Today, I call on you to make the changes needed to ensure every student – regardless of their zip code or luck in the lottery – receives a high-quality, well-rounded education.

You can read President Davis' full statement here.

 

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Statement to Labor Committee on FY2021 Budget

DC City Council, Committee on Labor & Workforce Development

Fiscal Year 2021 Budget Oversight Hearing

Testimony of Elizabeth A. Davis, President

Washington Teachers’ Union

AFT Local 6

 

 

The reopening of our school doors will serve as a symbol of our city’s recovery. How we invest in our school system and its employees in the upcoming school year will serve as a symbol of our city’s values.

The novel coronavirus and the subsequent school closures have made clear that schools play an outsized role in our community — they are so much more than places to learn. Schools provide vital nutrition, physical safety, mental health and critical developmental supports to tens of thousands of students across the District every day. They also play a key role in supporting members of the city’s workforce as a place where their children can thrive while adults are at work. Our teachers are front line employees, required to show up each day despite risks to their health and the health of their families. Teachers will be critical to our city’s economic recovery.

 

-- Read More -- You can download and read our full statement here.

 

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