As we head into the last few weeks of this school year, I just want to say again how much I appreciate the cooperation, compassion, and resolve I’ve seen from our students, families, and educators over the past few months. The care and kindness shown across our community throughout such a challenging and uncertain time has been a daily boost to me and my family.
We continue to talk regularly with the state’s health leaders to get updates on the impact of COVID-19 and the latest guidance on the precautions that need to be taken. As a result, we made the decision this week to cancel in-person summer school programs and all summer camps. We looked at a variety of options before reaching this difficult decision, but it was clear in talking with health officials that we are not yet ready to bring students and educators together on our campuses and facilities in June and July.
And we now are turning our attention to planning for the next school year. Much like the past few months, this will be hard and unfamiliar because of the new health landscape we’re navigating together. And we very much want and need your help and input.
As we get ready to start this conversation and planning, I want to share a few things we do know for certain.
- Our overriding priority remains the health and well-being of our students and staff. We remain committed to following the guidance of health experts in developing our plans.
- We do not want to delay the start of next school year. Our health experts have strongly advised us to begin school again in August. The warmer weather of late summer and early fall brings a reduced likelihood of needing to interrupt school schedules because of a spike in COVID-19 infection rates or outbreaks of flu or other common winter illnesses.
- Schools will continue to operate differently when we reopen. Exactly what that will look like is the work we need to do together, in concert with health officials, over the next two months. But we do know that it will most likely mean some combination of in-person school and remote learning, in order to prioritize health and safety.
- We will need to continue to be agile and make adjustments in how students and teachers are connecting. Until health officials give clearance for a return to normal school operations, we will need to adhere to social-distancing guidelines and will likely offer a mix of in-person and remote learning. We will also likely need to make schedule adjustments periodically during the school year depending on how successful our community is in containing the virus.
This week, principals and district leadership, including the DCTA, began discussing various scenarios for reopening schools for next school year. We are looking at a variety of options, including different scheduling plans, so that we can adhere to the health requirements of social distancing, along with other requirements for health screenings, cleaning of facilities, school buses, and using masks.
There will now be thorough and frequent working-group meetings, involving principals and teachers (from district-run and charter schools), union leadership, and central support teams. These groups of educators will talk through, in close consultation with our Board of Education, the details of various options for reopening schools, with a mix of in-person and remote learning. And to inform those discussions, we’ll be sending community surveys to ask our students and families for their input on how our schools can best meet their needs when we reopen in August. We expect the first of those surveys to go out to our families next week through School Messenger emails and text messages.
The best plan we can put together for reopening schools is one that prioritizes health and wellness and is responsive to the needs of our students and families. And that certainly means understanding the need for parents to be able to return to work and students to be able to attend school in person, as much as is safely possible. Please keep an eye out for the surveys and help us build a better plan with your feedback and engagement.
We are so looking forward to having students back in our buildings in a few months, although still with some adjustments. We are committed to working with you on a plan to welcome them back warmly and safely. And thank you again for the strength and understanding that’s leading us -- together -- through these difficult days.