DC public schools will start academic year virtually

DC public schools will start academic year virtually
© Bonnie Cash

Washington, D.C., public schools will begin the academic year entirely virtually, Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) announced Thursday.

Education officials said the decision was made to emphasize the health and safety of students and staff as coronavirus cases in the region have been increasing in recent weeks. 

Virtual classes for pre-K through 12th grade will begin Aug. 31 and run through Nov. 6. District officials said they are planning for in-person options for the second term.

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Neighboring school districts in Virginia and Maryland had previously announced their decisions to conduct virtual learning in the fall.

District education leaders during a press conference acknowledged the concerns about students having access to the technology needed for virtual learning and stressed they are committed to giving every student the tools they need to successfully participate, whether it's a device or internet access. 

Education officials said all classes will be taught through a single platform, which they stressed will be much more user-friendly than what occurred in the spring. Students will also have predictable schedules, with different amounts of live instruction based on their grade levels. 

Bowser and D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Lewis Ferebee earlier this month said they wanted to give families the option to take classes completely online in the fall, or split their time between in-person and remote learning. 

Rising coronavirus infections interfered with that plan. The city announced another 58 cases earlier Thursday, but no additional deaths.

Bowser recently required people traveling from hot-spot states to quarantine upon arrival in the nation's capital but said she has no imminent plans to impose any new restrictions on businesses that have reopened. 

The virtual school decision comes amid tensions between the D.C. teachers union and the mayor. 

The union has been calling for a virtual start to the school year and earlier this week delivered body bags outside school offices to protest the planned in-person reopening.