For Immediate Release
Washington DC Teachers, Families and Students Rally to Express Concerns About City’s Plan to Reopen Schools to In-Person Learning
WASHINGTON — Washington DC teachers, families, and students joined at the John A. Wilson Building today to share their concerns about the city’s plan to reopen schools to in-person learning. While many expressed their desire to reopen our city’s schools, they expressed concern about the lack of transparency in city planning and the impact of proposed staffing changes on students. Speakers also expressed concerns for the health of elementary students, teachers, and communities as 21,000 students plus thousands of staff return to DC school buildings in the coming weeks while COVID-19 cases increase across our nation.
“We saw many elements of the DCPS plan for the first time during yesterday’s press conference and we still haven’t seen concrete details,” Elizabeth Davis, the Washington Teachers’ Union (WTU) president stated. “Our demands are for common sense protections for our communities including but not limited to access to testing, licensed nurses on-site at every school, verification that our HVAC systems work properly to circulate air and prevent the spread of the coronavirus. DCPS must treat teachers and community members as full partners in developing and in verifying plans to keep everyone safe.”
While the community hearing was occurring outside, the DC Council held an oversight hearing on the city’s plan to reopen schools. Only representatives from the Deputy Mayor for Education and DC Public Schools were invited to speak. Questions parents, teachers and community members submitted to have answered by DC Public Schools about the city’s plan to reopen schools to in-person learning are attached.
“Listen to my kid’s teachers,” said Greg Wahl, a DCPS parent and a professor at Montgomery College. “Their dedication during the pandemic has been amazing. I know they would like nothing better than to be back in the classroom with their students, but they see that it's not safe for themselves, it’s not safe for the kids, it’s not safe for the families, and it’s not safe for the community. They are the ones who would know. As parents, that is also what we demand from DCPS, from the Council and from the mayor: LISTEN TO THE TEACHERS.”
During a press conference yesterday, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser and DC Public Schools Chancellor Lewis Ferebee presented many elements of their plan for the first time to citizens and teachers. The presentation included information on learning loss for our youngest students.
The proposal being put forward by DC Public Schools would reassign many staff members from middle and high schools across the District to supervise CARES classrooms to support early education and elementary school students. In the proposed CARES classrooms, serving approximately 14,000 learners, students would continue to receive their lessons via Distance Learning. Staff being reassigned from their current duties supporting middle and high school students would not be providing direct instruction. Additionally, DCPS’ proposal would provide live, in-person instruction for 7,000 elementary school students. This will result in many teachers being reassigned to new classrooms and, possibly grades. Students who remain in Distance Learning environments, whether at home or in CARES settings, could see their class balloon to up to 40 students.
“It’s clear that DCPS has a different definition of collaboration than Washington’s Teachers and parents do,” Davis continued. “We want to ensure parents, teachers, and community members are involved not just in the decision on when to reopen our school buildings, but throughout this crisis.”
“Trust in leadership is critical in a crisis,” said Sandra Moscoso-Mills, the Home School Association (HSA) president at School Without Walls High School. “Refusing to share data and picking and choosing what data you share undermines trust. Removing trusted leaders creates chaos. Parents and students are scared. When a trusted leader we depend on to act in our students’ best interests is suddenly removed, how can we then trust the Mayor, the DME, and the Chancellor are working to protect us?”
In early October, School Without Walls principal Richard Trogisch was removed from his position. Many reports indicate he had raised concerns about the safety of students and staff should the School Without Walls Francis-Stevens campus reopen to in-person learning.
Earlier in the week, in response to complaints filed by the Washington Teachers’ Union (WTU), the Public Employees Relations Board (PERB) Hearing Examiner on Tuesday October 20 ruled that DC Public Schools (DCPS) violated the law by refusing to bargain with WTU regarding reopening planning and granted WTU’s renewed request for preliminary relief. The PERB found that there is reasonable cause to believe that DCPS has violated the law by not bargaining with WTU regarding reopening and ordered that DCPS bargain with WTU over health and safety matters as they relate to reopening within 5 days of the ruling. DCPS must also rescind the Intent Form that it sent to teachers on June 30, and the Staffing Assignment Survey it sent to teachers on September 29.
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The Washington Teachers’ Union (WTU) represents more than 5,000 active and retired teachers. It is dedicated to social and educational justice for the students of the District of Columbia and to improving the quality of support, resources, compensation and working conditions for the public servants and proud teachers who educate our students in D.C. Public Schools.