DCPS Announces Possible In-Person Hybrid Learning

By Micha Green
AFRO D.C. Editor

It’s been four months since District of Columbia public schools were open for in-person learning, however, with the nation’s capital in Phase Two of reopening, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and DCPS Chancellor Lewis Ferebee, announced a possible hybrid-learning plan for the 2020-2021 school year. While the leaders are pushing to, what the mayor calls #ReOpenStrong, Bowser and Ferebee made it clear the official plan would not be unveiled until the end of the month.

“We’re going to delay our decision about the upcoming school year until July 31,” Bowser said, as a result of concerning COVID-19 statistics.  “If we are able, and the health indicators allow us to, on July 31 we will present several options for D.C. parents.”

Mayor Muriel Bowser and Chancellor Lewis Ferebee are working to find the safest options for DCPS students, staff and families, and one way is by closing the digital divide for equitable access to virtual learning. (Courtesy Photo)

Although, there are no solidified plans, Chancellor Ferebee shared some of the possible options for DCPS families that include a hybrid- in-person and virtual- learning structure.  He said DCPS came to the decision of hybrid learning after months of speaking to students, staff and families about the previous virtual learning setup since the pandemic shutdown.

“We spent months gathering data through our surveys [and] our focus groups and we had the opportunity to hear from 17,000 voices among our students, staff and families. And what we heard is there is a need to continue to have a consistent and easy to follow schedule for families, and we are prioritizing safety.  Safety will be paramount in all of our scheduling to ensure that there are robust protocols to maintain healthy conditions within our schools,” Ferebee said at a press conference on July 16.

“We also heard the need to continue to maximize learning.  We know that the optimal experience for students is in-person instructions and we intend to maximize that with a schedule that promotes the safety protocols,” the Chancellor said. “We are co-horting students into groups to maintain successful distancing and also to ensure that we can do appropriate contact tracing,” the chancellor said of the potential hybrid plan.

In order to continue hybrid learning, Ferebee spoke on the District’s efforts to ensure equitable access to high-speed Internet, devices and supplies.

“That means ensuring that students have access to devices and supplies to have a successful learning experience.  So to do that, we are offering choice.  One of the things reflected in the data as well, is to ensure that families who want to have in-person instruction have the ability to choose a hybrid model and also the ability to offer a virtual only model for those students who have experienced success in a virtual only option and would like to continue that for the 2020-2021 school year,” Ferebee explained.

“In order to #ReOpenStrong, we must create access to help close the digital divide,” Bowser Tweeted.  According to the Mayor, 5,500 hotspots were distributed in the spring and 3,500 more will be given out at the beginning of the school year.  

Despite a solid plan for the school year, while school buildings are still closed, the Summer Bridge program, for rising third, sixth and ninth graders, will be virtual.

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