News & Politics

DC Public School Teachers Take Mental Health Day to Protest Reopening Plans

It's chaos as the system reverses course and announces its second term will begin virtually rather than in person.

Image via iStock.

The school day in the District of Columbia was upended Monday after members of the District’s teachers union collectively put in for a mental health day to protest the school system’s reopening plan. And the resulting chaos seems to have forced the school system’s hand.

In an email to parents this morning, Chancellor Lewis Ferebee announced that DC Public Schools will not meet in person on November 9, after all: The system’s second term, set to begin next Monday, will once again begin with students at home.

Like many large school systems, the District’s has been tied in knots of whether, when, and how to reopen for in-person education. Schools closed a month early last spring in order to plan for an orderly return. That return, though, was put off at the end of the summer. The most recent plan would have brought back a small number of children in-school teacher instruction—one class per grade, with preference for children with special needs. But teachers have wrangled with system authorities over safety as well as just who will be doing the live teaching. Parents have also worried that the change would mean their kids’ teachers change, even if the kids are still at home.

Last week, Fairfax County’s teachers also voted to take a collective mental health day this Wednesday to protest the county’s reopening plan.

Election Day is a day off for DC students and teachers, and there’s no instruction on Friday, either. Teachers will spend Friday working on records and professional development.

Here’s Ferebee’s email:

Dear DCPS Community,DC Public Schools has a responsibility to provide every student with an equitable, rigorous, and joyful education — no matter if they are learning at home or learning in school.
While we planned to offer in-person learning at the start of Term 2 for select elementary school students, this timeline will need to be adjusted. This means all students in grades PK-12 will now begin Term 2 on Monday, November 9 with learning at home.
Please also note that this week’s academic calendar will not shift as previously announced. We apologize for any inconvenience this update may cause.
  • Monday, Nov. 2 — Instructional day
  • Tuesday, Nov. 3 — Election Day; no school for students and teachers
  • Wednesday, Nov. 4 — Instructional day
  • Thursday, Nov. 5 — Instructional day
  • Friday, Nov. 6 — No school for students; 1/2 Records Day and 1/2 Professional Development Day for teachers
We commit to supporting our students, families, teachers, and staff in our urgent mission to safely reopen schools. We have heard feedback from many in our community about #ReopenStrong plans, and we will use this moment to adjust our timeline and staffing plans for reopening.
We are still taking steps to reopen and will begin by opening CARE classrooms as soon as staffing plans are confirmed. Families who already accepted an in-person learning seat will have the option to join a CARE Classroom first. Then, we will outreach to additional families with seat offers. We will be in contact with families directly on next steps.
Elementary school principals will continue leading safety walkthroughs this week with members of their community to show first-hand how buildings are ready to welcome back students and staff. We are also posting school readiness details online at dcpsreopenstrong.com/school-plans.
Please join our weekly community town hall this Wednesday, Nov. 4 at 5:00 p.m. and do not hesitate to contact us at ceo.info@k12.dc.gov with your questions around our revised reopening schedule.
We will continue to share updates as they become available. In the meantime, please remember to vote tomorrow if you have not already.
In partnership and health,
Lewis D. Ferebee, Ed.D.

Don’t Miss Another Big Story—Get Our Weekend Newsletter

Our most popular stories of the week, sent every Saturday.

Or, see all of our newsletters. By signing up, you agree to our terms.
Senior editor

Andrew Beaujon joined Washingtonian in late 2014. He was previously with the Poynter Institute, TBD.com, and Washington City Paper. His book A Bigger Field Awaits Us: The Scottish Soccer Team That Fought the Great War was published in 2018. He lives in Del Ray.