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DC Public Schools: We Demand Safety Amidst Omicron Surge

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Introduction

The Omicron variant is surging in DC. Cases are higher than they have ever been. Educators and students are testing positive at extremely high rates, being moved to quarantine, disrupting learning and school operations. DCPS has repeatedly made promises (transparency, substitutes, COVID Coordinators, and more) that have not been kept. This has created an unsafe and unstable environment for learning.

DCPS sent over 25 schools to virtual instruction in a haphazard manner three days prior to break. This decision resulted in numerous outbreaks amongst educators, staff and students.

DCPS should follow in the steps of PG County and switch to virtual instruction during what is largely predicted to be a quick Omicron wave.

In order to ensure that we make it through this surge and are able to resume in person instruction in a safe and healthy manner, certain conditions must be met:

Priority Demands of DCPS: Must be met for us to return to in person instruction after Winter Break.
  1. DCPS must require a negative test result from all staff and students to return.
    1. Negative test results should be within 3 days of the first day of in person instruction.
    2. Testing should be made available on site for all who have not taken a test.
  2. Public, clear, transparent and available metrics for when our schools will provide virtual instruction.
    1. DC’s Community Spread 7-day average must be below 200 new cases to resume in person instruction.
    2. School based Metrics must include a clear understanding of what metrics are being used to make the decision.
  3. Restore paid COVID leave.
    1. Educators who need to use leave due to COVID should be compensated, without using their sick leave.
    2. Sick leave should be restored to teachers who have already had to use their leave for COVID purposes.
Additional Demands to keep our school communities safe
  1. Increase in COVID Safety Measures:
    • Offer fitted N95/KN95/KF94 masks to staff and students.
    • Have weekly PCR and antigen tests of all staff and students every week.
      1. Having a PCR test available for teachers, staff and families.
      2. Add a nasal swab option for testing on site.
      3. Have on demand rapid tests for symptomatic staff and students any day of the week, not just pre-arranged testing dates.
    • Having a viable virtual option for students to do virtual.
    • Asynchronous day built into the schedule for deep cleaning at schools.
    • Make good on DCPS Promises: COVID Coordinators.
      1. COVID Coordinators must be in the schools when DCPS reopens in 2022 for in-person instruction to assist with the high rates of infections due to Omicron.
      2. For any school that does not have a COVID Coordinator, DCPS Central Office will reassign someone from Central Office staff or employees to perform that role until one can be found.
    • Infections must be reported to the community within 24 hours of notification.
    • Clear and increased safety protocols for Elementary Specials Teachers who are expected to see all students every week. Including DCPS planning in place for the performing arts classes.
    • Update the definition of Close Contact to include vaccinated individuals considering the Omicron variant's high infection rate amongst those fully vaccinated and boosted.
      1. Include updated policy for those who test positive and may continue to test positive for some time.
  2. Have a plan to move to virtual when metrics are met.
    • DCPS must provide enough technology for schools to switch to virtual if needed and support schools in implementing a technology roll-out plan.
    • Provide training, time and support to teachers to set up virtual instruction.
    • Have clear transition procedures for schools to utilize when this decision is made.

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