Plans and opinions vary as area schools look to reopen

Schools around the DMV are considering the prospect of reopening and what that would require. Educators, students, and parents are experiencing a plethora of emotions, from anxiety to excitement.

Some schools remain fully online, while others are in the early stages of transitioning to a hybrid program. DCPS had initially planned to reopen schools for elementary schoolers who they deemed needed it most (students with learning differences, experiencing homelessness, or learning English as a second language), but the teachers’ union resisted, and Chancellor Lewis Ferebee deserted the plan. 

DCPS is now waiting for the second term*, but various private schools such as Sidwell Friends School, Georgetown Day School, and Maret are reopening in a hybrid fashion. While most schools are only opening their elementary portions, GDS is opening the high school as well. As of November 19th, the high school will be open for classes. Students are required to get tested for COVID prior to the 19th and must complete an opt-in survey before November 6th. 

Burke’s reopening possibilities are also coming into focus. In a recent town hall, Head of School Damian Jones explained a previously designed model schedule. This would include a continuation of Virtual Mondays, as well as students spending two days in school with two days of asynchronous work. “What we presented was a plan that we put together in July and August of this past summer. It was not a plan that we could see into the future with, because we didn’t know where we were gonna be at this point in our remote learning,” Jones said.**

However, students and teachers seem to have found a rhythm under the current system, they and aren’t sure that they’re ready to go back to doing large amounts of asynchronous work. Yael Nemeth ‘22 said, “I feel that asynchronous work and synchronous meetings have to work together so that students don’t have too much homework but also don’t spend way too much time [in classes].” Jones recognized this concern, saying, “If we go back to the program that [we] developed, then we lose the synchronous time that has become now a vital part of how students experience each day. We’re re-evaluating this approach that’s only a few months old, but is not gonna serve us well given the experiences that students have to date.”

Though many schools are returning, the concern of safety is still prevalent. Sanja Oyugi ‘23 said, “Right now I don’t think it is 100% safe to go back because there are still [cases] spiking throughout the DMV … I feel we should still wait a little longer to see how this plays out.” 

Even if school were to return in a hybrid fashion, it would be a new normal to adjust to. “[We would be going] back into school with constraints and measures … and things that are going to be used to govern our movements and our behaviors.” Jones said. “That is unlike what students have encountered in the past. This is not to suggest that students were just allowed to roam freely without frameworks in place to help inform their decision making … but now the frames are rigid … and they’re not without consequence.”

*Editor’s Note 1: Per the Washington Post, On November 13th, DCPS and its teachers’ union reached a tentative deal that would make in-person teaching optional for the upcoming second quarter, which opens the door to a possible reopening soon. 

**Editor’s Note 2: After feedback from the community, Burke announced a revised reopening plan in a second round of town halls.