WASHINGTON — Local officials in the nation’s capital on Monday pushed back the reopening of public schools by a day because of a snowstorm. Covid-19 tests will now be available for pick-up on Tuesday and Wednesday, they said, and schools in the district will instead reopen in person on Thursday.
City and school officials announced at the end of December that all students and staff would be required to provide proof of a negative Covid-19 test result before returning to school. While schools will start in person, it’s possible that classrooms will have to switch to virtual learning in the coming weeks.
“The health and safety of our community remain paramount as we prepare to welcome students and staff back to our schools,” said Chancellor Lewis D. Ferebee in a statement. Covid cases in the district have increased 485 percent in the past two weeks, according to The New York Times’s tracker, with an average rate of 2,103 cases per day. Hospitalizations have increased 60 percent during the same time period.
Talisa Sutton-Stephenson, 36, has four children in public and charter schools in the city, who will be returning to in-person learning on Wednesday and Thursday. Ms. Sutton-Stephenson, who is an educator for the District of Columbia Public Schools, said she was thrilled that her children, who are all fully vaccinated, would be returning to school in person. She was especially happy for her 6-year-old daughter.
“She’s really a different child in person than she is virtually,” said Ms. Sutton-Stephenson, who is also fully vaccinated. “She retains more information. She really does value relationships with her teachers and other students.”
“I cannot see doing virtual again,” said Ms. Sutton-Stephenson. “I really wish that the conversation or the narrative would switch from staying home to, ‘What do you need to do to stay in person safely?’”
Teachers agree that in-person learning is the best choice right now, said Jacqueline Pogue Lyons, the president of the Washington Teachers Union.
“Our teachers are very anxious because we know that the numbers are very high, but we know that the best place for students to be is in person,” said Ms. Pogue Lyons, adding that it was “going to be a long probably month and a half.”
She said she was pleased that the District was one of the few places in the country that would require a negative test from all teachers, students, and staff before returning to school. The school system also plans to offer all teachers K95 masks, and the union is pushing for students to receive those masks too.
A number of other schools in the D.C. metro area have either canceled classes entirely on Monday or switched to virtual learning because of either the snowstorm, Covid-19, or both. Those include Arlington Public Schools, Fairfax County Schools, Montgomery County Public Schools, and Prince George’s County Public Schools.