After 3 weeks of DCPS in person learning, parents, staff, and students can all say it’s been a real education.
First, a few action items:
–Take this ward education council survey today, to better inform parent advocacy around in person and virtual learning in DCPS. All eight of the city’s ward education councils have worked together on this, and your feedback is invaluable.
–The DC council is holding two virtual hearings in September on our schools: the first, on school re-opening, is on 9/21 and the second, on school facilities, is on 9/28 (sign up by 9/24). Both hearings will occur virtually while the entire council is on recess and while kids and teachers are in person every single day.
(Feel free to show up at the Wilson Building (our city hall!) with your lunch and eat it in the presence of the (few?) staffers and council members present—you know, like our kids do at school every school day with hundreds of their pals.)
Second, a few helpful websites around DC schools, kids, & covid, in no particular order:
DC school-based testing results: https://coronavirus.dc.gov/page/covid-19-school-based-testing-program
Twitter clarity regarding DCPS covid notification: https://twitter.com/DCPSCovidCases
Official DCPS covid notifications: https://dcpsreopenstrong.com/category/articles/
Archived official DCPS covid notifications (sigh): https://dcpsreopenstrong.com/health/response/notifications/
DCPS infections and quarantines: https://coronavirus.dc.gov/page/dc-public-schools-dcps-data
Helpful chart created by a DCPS parent, showing all DCPS cases and quarantines by school: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1ZT2XxxtPqtrEJKWsmErz7YkR-UYzvJaV-3aOZYcswBk/edit#gid=558896752
Covid cases in all DC schools (private, publicly funded, and parochial): https://coronavirus.dc.gov/data/schools
Graph of DC covid cases by age: https://dccovid.com/ages.html
Covid data for DC kids and kids in other jurisdictions: https://www.covkidproject.org
NEW 9/20/21! Dashboard of DC school covid stats, created by a DC teacher: https://dcpscoviddash.wixsite.com/website
Now, if all of this seems kinda depressing, it’s because—well, it is.
In addition to parents not being notified of cases at their schools; being notified many days late (possibly because the mayor herself apparently has to approve of notifications); and being subjected to ludicrous quarantine rules such that an asymptomatic vaccinated sibling (told not to quarantine with her unvaccinated, infected younger sibling) ends up not only infected, but also at school likely while infected, we here in DC face a number of hurdles in our return to in person learning.
–Despite weeks of school and awareness of HVAC problems, DCPS HVAC repairs are lagging, while outdoor learning and eating supplies have been slow to arrive and inequitably distributed, despite the fact that utterly no one in DC government has been unaware of the airborne nature of covid since early 2020.
–Even though DCPS invested heavily in FY21 in tens of millions of items and services, only a fraction of DCPS classes right now (per the good parents at Digital Equity in DC Education) has the ability to host simulcasting—despite the fact that more than 1000 DCPS students are currently in quarantine, and the entire 6th grade at Johnson has been quarantined. Possibly worse, anecdotal evidence suggests that what exists of educational materials for students in quarantine in DCPS is highly subjective, depending on teachers’ access to and abilities with Canvas.
–The covid testing piece within DCPS (and who knows what’s going on with charters–freedom!) is quite a mess:
On August 18, the mayor said that 10-20% of DCPS students would be tested weekly by DCPS. It’s clear now, 3 weeks into the school year, that there has likely never been a day on which even 10% of DCPS students have been tested by DCPS, much less 20%. Not surprisingly, only a fraction of positive cases in students have been identified by DCPS.
For instance, on September 5, the Post reported that “on Thursday and Friday [Sept. 2 & 3], the city processed 964 student tests at 37 schools, with four tests coming back positive.”
Almost a week later, on September 11, another Post article said this:
“In D.C., so far, according to city data, health department contact tracers have advised 912 of the 52,000 D.C. Public Schools students and 140 staffers out of more than 7,500 to quarantine. Asymptomatic people who are vaccinated are included in city numbers but do not have to quarantine. So far, the city says that it has detected 87 positive student cases in the public school system as of Sept. 8. City officials said Friday [Sept. 10] that their asymptomatic testing program has conducted 4,109 tests, with 24 returning positive. The other positive student cases have largely been reported by families.”
That means that 52K + 7.5K = 59.5K total of DCPS staff and students. If we assume those 4109 tests had been done since the start of school on August 30, that works out to about 7% of BOTH teachers and students across 2 weeks–when the promise was for 10-20% of STUDENTS being tested weekly. If it’s just for students, then it works out to about 8% of students across 2 weeks.
But who knows?
It’s impossible to know how that number of tests (4109) relates to this chart, which shows that for the week of September 6, 4080 tests were done in DCPS. Even if you added the number of tests reported for the prior week, it still doesn’t add up to 4109.
But that doesn’t mean the Post is not reporting correctly, because that chart linked above apparently wasn’t even publicly available when that Post story was written.
And that’s not taking into account the difficulties that collecting test saliva from the youngest students presents.
But far worse is the fact that only 26 out of 248 covid cases in DCPS students by September 15 were identified by DCPS’s random testing. That means that the testing that IS identifying positive students is being done by parents or others, whether through free city testing or purchased tests. That suggests the testing within DCPS is wildly inadequate to the task.
And that’s not even accounting for the quality of contact tracing, which one parent’s experience showed to be very poor.
–While families continue to advocate for better conditions, including more robust testing; a virtual option; and better safety protocols (see this letter and this one and, while you’re at it, this parental deconstruction of mayoral gaslighting), families are now reporting that they are being threatened with disenrollment from DCPS starting on October 5 for keeping their children home from school because of the lack of safe protocols and robust testing.
All of which suggests that the proponents of in person learning and school choice (i.e., our mayor, her deputies, and, judging from their relative silence at this moment, most of the rest of DC’s political class) are OK with kids, staff, and families being actively endangered for actually exercising that choice to keep their kids safe when it is clear that our schools (and the policies of those in charge of those schools) are not safe.