(Washington, DC) Today, Mayor Muriel Bowser and DC Public Schools (DCPS) Chancellor Lewis D. Ferebee welcomed students across the District of Columbia back to school. With robust and layered health and safety measures in place, the start of School Year 2021-2022 marks the return of all students and staff back to the classroom across 116 schools since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As schools welcome our students back to the classroom, they will find that things may look different but the joyful and rigorous learning opportunities that define a DCPS education remain constant,” said Chancellor Lewis D. Ferebee. “I am proud of the steadfast commitment of our educators to nurture student academic achievement alongside social and emotional well-being. I am also proud of the thoughtful and thorough preparations schools made to safely reopen for all students.”
In March 2020, DCPS moved to a virtual learning model as planning began around how best to safely reopen schools. With health and safety measures in place, elementary schools began in-person programming in November 2020 and all schools reopened in February 2021 with in-person options. Today marks the first time the majority of DCPS students will be back in the classroom with their teachers and peers for the first time in 18 months.
Health and Safety Measures and Vaccine Availability
DCPS has a strong, layered approach to preventing the spread of COVID-19 that is built on the pillars of preventing, screening, and informing. A full overview is available at dcpsreopenstrong.com/health.
- Preventing: Schools have in place mitigation measures, such a universal mask requirement, physical distancing, and enhanced air filtration, that are scientifically proven to make a difference in limiting the transmission of COVID-19.
- Screening: DCPS will test 10 percent of students each week to screen for COVID-19 as part of our health and safety protocols, targeting unvaccinated students. Students are automatically opted into this program unless families complete a form to indicate they wish to not participate.
- Informing: Schools will report positive cases with a school community if a person has been in the building during their infectious period, along with a quarantine protocol for close contacts.
Additionally, DCPS staff and school contractors are required to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, and it is highly encouraged for students ages 12 and older. Free school clinics opened this summer to support vaccination efforts and remain open through the end of September. Visit vaccinate.dc.gov for list of school sites and incentives available for youth such as gift cards, AirPods, iPads and even a college scholarship.
School Indoor Air Quality Report
More than $24 million in HVAC upgrades have been made to improve filtration and ventilation in every DCPS building. Mobile units with a medical-grade HEPA filter to clean the air in classrooms. There are also UV-C lights in places like the bathroom to keep any germs present from replicating. MERV-13 filters in building-wide systems help reduce the type of air particles that even enter the building.
DCPS buildings are equipped with indoor air quality sensors that are continuously monitoring air quality in our schools. An analysis of the primary measurements to monitor air quality in a school building — Carbon Dioxide (CO2) and Particulate Matter — indicate that all schools have healthy and safe air quality levels. Download the report online at this link.
New Schools and Programming
Several DCPS schools opened with brand new school buildings and facilities that will transform learning environments and support high-quality instruction for hundreds of students.
- Banneker Academic High School (Ward 6) — A brand-new building and school location features more than 30 classrooms and specialty labs for science courses, lab spaces with the latest technology, resource rooms that include spaces for small group projects and instruction, and gym and cafeteria spaces.
- C.W. Harris Elementary School (Ward 7) — This project was completed in the 2020-2021 School Year and includes a full modernization plus an addition with a new gym, cafeteria, and school offices.
- Capitol Hill Montessori @ Logan (Ward 6) — This modernization project nearly doubles the existing school building and allows outdoor play space to be maximized with a rooftop turf field.
- Eaton Elementary School (Ward 3) — The modernization project includes a new three-level addition featuring a new gymnasium, library, and cafeteria.
- Eliot-Hine Middle School (Ward 6) — This modernization project was completed in the 2020-2021 School Year and includes renovation of the historic building along with a new gym, broadcast media classroom, a full-sized baseball field that can convert to a soccer field, and basketball courts.
- Houston Elementary School (Ward 7) — This project was completed in the 2020-2021 School Year and includes a full modernization plus new and enhanced outdoor spaces, a Welcome Center, and a multipurpose room.
- Jefferson Middle School (Ward 6) — This modernization project was completed in the 2020-2021 School Year.
- Ross Elementary School (Ward 2) — This project includes a space renovation of the attic to construct a library and art and music classrooms.
- Van Ness Elementary School (Ward 6) — This modernization project includes the addition of a new wing with classroom spaces and renovation of an adjacent facility to support growing enrollment.
- West Elementary School (Ward 4) — The brand-new building at the existing school site is among the District’s first Net Zero Energy-Ready and WELL Certified School also includes an outdoor amphitheater, ball field, playgrounds, and other site elements.
Additionally, the district’s two early learning centers, Thaddeus Stevens (Ward 2) and Military Road (Ward 4), will fully reopen for their entire Pre-K student body on Thursday, September 2. Construction of the Stevens Early Learning Center was completed the previous school year, and Military Road Early Learning Center is a new school for this year.
Rebuilding Stronger than Before
DCPS believes that every student must benefit from the transformative nature of a public education. This school year, we will begin our work toward becoming an anti-racist organization that removes barriers to success, particularly for our students of color. We will review our curriculum and teaching practices, reexamine our budget and policies, and commit to listen deeply to our students’ lived experiences.