DC Councilman Charles Allen held a virtual town hall and clearly admitted his growing frustration with the District of Columbia’s public schools.
DC Councilman Charles Allen held a virtual town hall with education leaders, advocates and parents in Division 6 on Thursday night, clearly admitting his growing frustration with the city’s school leaders ahead of the start of the new school year on Monday.
Allen cited some of the things he himself saw on school visits—“HVAC systems not working as they should, spot coolers used in rooms, outdoor equipment not delivered on time”—as signs for the District of Columbia Public Schools is not prepared for the first day of class.
“I found teachers, our educators, and even our principals and school leaders, who worked very hard to create welcoming and safe spaces for students,” Allen said. “But the systems around them have let them down.”
“If I sound frustrated, it’s because I am.”
Allen was joined by Jessica Sutter, Ward 6’s representative to the DC State Board of Education, who pointed out that in some cases the HVAC systems were still circulating air, but sometimes it could be hot air – which would still be uncomfortable. .
In at least one case, the HVAC system was not working at all to circulate the air in a school cafeteria.
Their biggest complaints had to do with what they saw as DCPS’s intentional inflexibility with virtual learning options, which Allen believes are too limited and too limited.
He said that as of a few days ago, just over 100 students had enrolled in the virtual program the city offered.
While he doesn’t want the entire school system to go virtual again, he does believe that participation in the program should not be so strict.
“I have heard from many people who said that their pediatrician was even concerned about signing the form [for acceptance into virtual programs] from a medical liability standpoint,” Allen said.
He said he thinks the low overall number of requests for the virtual option doesn’t really reflect interest and demand. “I think it’s because it’s so closely tailored, which I think was done on purpose,” Allen said.
“People don’t feel like their voices are heard elsewhere,” Sutter says.
She was among those who signed a letter to Mayor Muriel Bowser asking DCPS to expand the number of students eligible for virtual activities.
“We’ve heard from many families that one child has received a medical exemption, but they have siblings,” Sutter said. “It doesn’t make much sense to let one child learn virtually while others can be exposed and take home, even if it’s not a COVID case, other germs that start moving again as kids gather,” Sutter said.