Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) closed District Public Schools as of May 29, with distance learning to continue until that date. DC Public Charter Schools (PCS) are expected to close on or around the same date, though each school will set their closing day.
PCS students will be contacted directly by their respective schools, said Deputy Mayor of Education Paul Kiln.
Speaking at her Friday, April 17 situational update, Bowser said that one reason for closing schools three weeks early is to preserve learning time in August. That three weeks can be tacked to the front of the planned DCPS August 31 start for the 2020-21 school year.
Asked by Washington Post reporter Perry Stein how the effectiveness of online learning affected decisions, DCPS Chancellor Lewis Ferebee said that preserving some time from June to use in August was ‘the best approach to provide the optimal learning enviroment in preparation for student achievement’ for the next school year.
Ferebee said DCPS is exploring some kind of student assessment to determine what students are learning in this time to inform learning over the summer and in the 2020-21 school year. Ferebee added that students who were in good standing on March 13, he said, can expect to graduate.
Some parents have not been in touch with their schools since March 16, the last day school was in session, Bowser said, asking parents to contact their schools. Ferebee said that DCPS did not have numbers on how many, but did know that some of those students had relocated during distance learning, with some affected by family cases of COVID-19. He said DCPS was reaching out to families.
There are still decisions to be made in regard to education. Summer school will be offered this year, Ferebee said, but the details are not yet clear. More info about ‘who is invited for summer experiences’ as well as on summer camp opportunities, library re-openings and ‘learning hubs’ –new, additional learning opportunities in public buildings– will also be discussed on May 15.
Bowser acknowleged that there is some work to do with distance learning. “This pandemic has put a huge spotlight on a division in our society,” she said, alluding to the digital divide. She pointed out that DCPS has distributed 16,000 devices and hotspots starting with high school students and moving thru Middle School and Elementary School student, with help from the donor-supported Education Equity Fund.
Bowser said that next week, she will talk about a new advisory team DC is pulling together to talk about how to reopen the District and the opportunities recovery gives the city to ‘do things not only the way they were, but better than the way they were’.