Parents And Teachers Want Clarity On Technology Needs As D.C. Delays Reopening Plan By Two Weeks

Parents and Teachers Want Clarity on Technology Needs as D.C. Delays Reopening Plan by Two Weeks

Parents and teachers in D.C. Public Schools are seeking reassurances that all students will have the ability to log on remotely and that safety measures will be in place this fall. However, officials have delayed announcing the reopening plan due to the volatile nature of local coronavirus cases.

Classes are scheduled to resume on August 31 for the district’s 52,000 students. Advocates are concerned that not all students have access to laptops and internet hotspots, especially since a significant portion of the first semester is expected to be virtual. They are looking for details on the school safety plan and the funds that DCPS has allocated for supplies like masks, in case classes resume partially in-person.

According to a survey conducted by the teachers union, nearly two-thirds of around 500 DCPS educators reported that up to 25% of students did not have a device or Wi-Fi by the end of the previous school year. Additionally, approximately 56% of middle school teachers stated that they spent $100 or more per month out of their own pockets on technology expenses.

The concern is that by not investing more in connectivity, a large portion of the student population will miss out on learning opportunities. Grace Hu, a parent from Digital Equity in DC Education, emphasizes that an additional $11 million needs to be added to the FY21 budget to ensure that every student can stay connected. She argues that the cost will only increase if more students are left behind without access to education.

The announcement delay was attributed to the changing and volatile situation with the virus, as stated by Mayor Muriel Bowser. D.C. and other districts across the country have been grappling with the challenge of reopening schools, especially when faced with record-breaking spikes in coronavirus cases.

Schools Chancellor Lewis Ferebee revealed that DCPS is considering one to two days a week of in-person learning, depending on the grade level. Parents will also have the option to choose fully virtual learning. However, Mayor Bowser noted that the model could change before the reopening plans are released on July 31.

Teachers are eager to return to school, according to special education teacher Ali Morgan, but they prioritize their safety as well.

The disconnect between the resources provided by DCPS and the needs expressed by parents, teachers, and advocates has been a recurring issue for months. While district and local officials claim to be satisfied with the number of devices available, advocates argue that DCPS lacks comprehensive surveying methods to fully understand the extent of students’ needs.

Maurice Cook, from the nonprofit organization Serve Your City, firmly believes that providing devices to students is essential in today’s environment, comparable to providing them with basic school supplies. However, his organization had to rely on community donations starting in April to provide laptops to students and families in need. So far, they have managed to refurbish and distribute 120 laptops.

Parent Alamaze King shared her experience of her seventh-grader’s school not inquiring about their need for laptops or hotspots when schools closed. She assumed that families were responsible for finding their own solutions because that was the norm in her community. When she found out that devices were being distributed, she contacted Kelly Miller Middle School, only to find out that they had run out. Now, she is preparing to bear the cost herself.

Special education teacher Morgan experienced the inequality of access to devices and Wi-Fi firsthand during the previous semester at School Without Walls at Francis-Stevens. She donated iPads from her husband’s temporarily closed restaurant to her students and even took on the role of IT support, contacting internet companies and Comcast when one of her students lost connection for three days. The lack of resources significantly affected her ability to perform her job effectively.

Safety Concerns

In early July, DCPS asked teachers if they would be willing to return to in-person teaching. However, this question remains unanswered due to the lack of information and facts, according to Morgan.

Morgan emphasized the need for a detailed breakdown of the money that could be allocated for items such as personal protective equipment (PPE). As an example, she mentioned that in her current job at a restaurant, she changes her mask at least seven to eight times a day.

Although DCPS received $25 million in federal CARES Act funding to assist with the purchase of protective equipment, the district has not yet provided any information on how this money will be spent since there is no formal reopening plan.

The cost of cleaning supplies alone, if in-person learning resumes, would be significant. KIPP DC, a charter network that serves 7,000 students, recently spent over $300,000 to purchase three months’ worth of cleaning supplies and PPE, including 16,000 disposable masks.

Funding for PPE is just one of many questions that educators have. They also want to know if every reopened school will have a school nurse on site and if teachers would be eligible for hazard pay.

Mayor Bowser stated that there is more to discuss about school readiness and protocols, which will be shared in the near future. Additionally, she mentioned that there will be town hall meetings for families to participate in before July 31.

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  • cameronmarshall

    I'm an educational bloger and teacher. I've been writing for about a year, and I'm currently working on my first book. I'm a self-taught teacher and blogger, and I love helping others learn how to be successful in life.

cameronmarshall Written by:

I'm an educational bloger and teacher. I've been writing for about a year, and I'm currently working on my first book. I'm a self-taught teacher and blogger, and I love helping others learn how to be successful in life.

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