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Opinion D.C. Public Schools’ failed reopening plan

D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Lewis D. Ferebee with Mayor Muriel E. Bowser at Shepherd Elementary School in Washington in November.
D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Lewis D. Ferebee with Mayor Muriel E. Bowser at Shepherd Elementary School in Washington in November. (Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post)
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Regarding the Jan. 3 front-page article “The unraveling of school reopenings”:

D.C. Public Schools claims it is grateful for teachers and values their input, but its actions do not match its words.

In its latest attempt to manufacture consent, DCPS created the Reopening Community Corps, which recruited teacher leaders within each school community and presented them with four instructional models. As a member of my school’s RCC, I was never given an opportunity to critique these models before their presentation to schools. It is abundantly clear that the people who put these models together have absolutely no idea about the daily goings-on in a classroom or the daily challenges presented by our new instructional paradigm. Some of the models even involve moving me out of my classroom, away from my students with whom I have built a rapport, and placing me in a different grade level — possibly at a different school — to teach a subject I have no background in.

The district now plans to point to our chosen model as evidence that we agreed to the reopening plan. This approach does not support the emotional well-being of students and teachers and falls far short of DCPS’s mission of providing “rigorous and joyful learning experiences . . . in a nurturing environment.”

Shannon Robichaud, Alexandria

The inability and unwillingness of D.C.’s political leaders and teachers union heads to reopen schools for in-person learning are a disgraceful failure to serve and protect D.C. children and families. Getting students back to school amid a pandemic is a tough task, and students should not be asked, nor teachers required, to attend school under unsafe conditions. But these problems could have been solved, in whole or in part, at least for the most vulnerable students. D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D), Schools Chancellor Lewis Ferebee, the D.C. Council and union leaders failed completely to do so.

Our political leaders found time and resources to open restaurants and small businesses but had no effective solutions for schools. The six-month gap between the school closures in March and the first day of school in September provided officials time to set up tents for outdoor learning, a comprehensive testing system for students and teachers, and a plan to provide safe conditions and focused help for the students most in need. But leaders fiddled while our education system burned.

The ongoing closure of D.C. Public Schools is a tragic disruption for tens of thousands of students and families, causing lost opportunity for all and irreparable harm for many. Our political and education leaders must do better — and our citizens must hold them accountable for their failure to do so.

Brian A. Cohen, Washington

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