The decision left D.C. parents scrambling for child care and threw the fate of end-of-the-year celebrations scheduled for Friday into question. D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Lewis D. Ferebee informed principals around 2 p.m. Thursday that classes would be canceled and said individual schools could decide whether to cancel any end-of-the-year celebrations, according to a school system spokeswoman. Many charter schools also canceled classes.
The majority of D.C. public schoolchildren are still learning virtually full-time, but more than 25,000 traditional public and charter school students are attending in-person school at least once a week. Most of the nation’s and region’s school districts have already ended the academic year, but D.C. Public Schools will not conclude until Thursday, June 24.
“One year after the murders of Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and many members of the Black community, we know that equality for all and the freedom to live safely in Black skin have not yet been actualized,” Ferebee wrote in a letter to families that included resources parents and students could use to learn more about Juneteenth. “That is why our work to become an actively anti-racist organization is so important.”
The D.C. government and public schools are also closed each year on April 16 for Emancipation Day — marking the end of slavery in the city.
Patricia Stamper, a paraprofessional at Miner Elementary in Northeast Washington, said she spent Thursday in practice for a graduation ceremony with her special education students that was scheduled for Friday. They took pictures and worked on how they would walk. Families planned to attend and she said some students who had been virtual all year were expected to be on campus for one of the first times all year.
But on Thursday afternoon, she learned it would be postponed in observance of Juneteenth.
“At the end of the day, I asked, ‘Are we good for tomorrow?’ And then I heard it was canceled,” said Stamper, who has a son at another elementary school in the city. “This is last minute — very last minute. I can only imagine being a single mother or a single dad and you have to work tomorrow.”
The mayor’s office issued a news release around 3:45 p.m. announcing the government services that would be shut down Friday, including all libraries. Some meal distribution sites at schools will be open between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.
After Bowser’s last-minute announcement, many frustrated parents took to social media. They said while they support the holiday, they are struggling with child care and have disappointed children who are missing some of the last days of school. Council member Robert C. White Jr. (D-At Large) tweeted that he needs to figure out how to “break it” to his young daughter that her prekindergarten promotion ceremony would be canceled. He said he has heard from parents trying to figure out child care and had reached out to the chancellor.
Scott Goldstein, a parent and executive director of EmpowerEd, a teacher advocacy group, said his preschool-age daughter was so excited for an end-of-the-year celebration at her charter school Friday that she already had her bag packed with a bathing suit for a party on campus. It would have been her last day of prekindergarten, and she wanted to say goodbye to her teacher. The school notified him Thursday afternoon that the event would be postponed until the fall.
“My daughter is going to be crushed,” he said.
D.C. Public Schools said it would not be adding a day to the academic year to make up for the lost day of school. Charter schools can make their own decisions about whether to remain open Friday. Each school’s operating status can be found here.