Washington, DC will not reopen school buildings this fall

Public schools in the nation’s capital will open this fall with full-time distance learning by computer

WASHINGTON – Public schools in the nation’s capital will open this fall with full-time distance learning by computer, as officials have abandoned their initial plans to use a combination of distance and in-person instruction.

Mayor Muriel Bowser’s announcement on Thursday was widely expected as all the surrounding school districts in northern Virginia and southern Maryland had already made the same decision.

Bowser had initially planned to use a hybrid model with the majority of students attending classes inside school buildings two days a week. But with the new surge in COVID-19 infection numbers, a mid-July announcement of the hybrid plan was delayed abruptly minutes before the press conference.

Paul Kihn, the deputy mayor for education in Washington, said the school district had solicited input from thousands of parents.

“He overwhelmingly asked us to prioritize health and safety,” he said.

Bowser said the decision was due to a combination of virus metrics, parental concerns, and opposition from the teachers union to opening public school buildings.

The Washington Teachers Union, which had been promoting the Twitter hashtag #OnlyWhenItsSafe, said in a tweet Thursday: “DC teachers are willing to return to learning in person, if health and safety concerns are addressed to ensure the health of our teachers, students and communities. In the meantime, we are committed to ensuring great virtual learning for our students. “

The distance learning model will be in force throughout the first period, which ends on November 6. Bowser said they still hoped to switch to the hybrid model for the second period, starting Nov. 9.

After saying they had successfully mitigated the infection curve in the city earlier this summer, health officials say the infection numbers have slowly increased, reaching triple digits last week for the first time since early June.

Bowser had taken a number of unprecedented steps in response, including making face masks a must-have outdoors for most people and declaring anyone visiting or returning to Washington after a nonessential trip to a considered area a hot spot must be quarantined for two weeks.