Testimony of Grace Hu – DC Council – Public Roundtable on DCPS Return to In-Person Instruction – Dec 2, 2020

Grace Hu
Amidon-Bowen Elementary Local School Advisory Team
Council Oversight Roundtable on DCPS

December 2, 2020

Good afternoon. My name is Grace Hu and I am a parent at Amidon-Bowen Elementary, where I serve on the LSAT. I am also one of the parent leads for the Digital Equity in DC Education coalition and part of the Ward 6 Public Schools Parent Organization. As you engage with DCPS and the Bowser Administration on the reopening of schools, I urge you to consider these questions.

  1. How will DCPS maintain high quality in-school instruction and high-quality distance learning at the same time? Much of the current debate has been framed in a binary construct – students returning or not returning to school. In reality, there will be some period of time next calendar year in which schools will have to support both virtual learning and in-person instruction at the same time, as some families (like mine) are not willing to send their children back to school.

    DCPS’ original return-to-in-person plan for >20k elementary school students would have resulted in larger class sizes and reassigning of teachers for those who remained in distance learning, resulting in disruptions to learning and student-teacher relationships. Additionally, teachers and school staff have spent significant time helping families with tech support, navigating online learning platforms, and troubleshooting other distance learning issues. What will happen when these school staff now have to split their focus between in-school and at-home learning environments? I urge you to focus on quality of instruction and the impact of DCPS decisions on quality instruction for both at-home and in-school learners.
  2. Does DCPS have the technology infrastructure to switch back and forth seamlessly between school and home learning? We’ve seen other school districts reopen schools only to return to distance learning due to COVID spikes. DCPS likely will have to do the same. Does the school system have adequate devices, tech and curriculum supports to pivot back and forth between school and home learning environments? We have not seen the data that shows they do.
  3. What planning and procurements does DCPS need to start soon to position itself for success for next school year? The beginning of this school year was chaotic. At some schools, there was confusion over who qualified as needing a device, and some devices and hotspots were not delivered until after school started. Teachers were not guaranteed devices to use for instruction and complained that they were not given adequate time to familiarize themselves with learning platforms. You dropped the ball on providing the oversight to ensure that we would be ready for the school year. So this time around, please do better, starting with asking DCPS now what its longer term plan for providing technology other supports is. Charters like KIPP are already looking at procuring technology to avoid global supply chain issues.

Lastly, I have been appalled by the lack of respect shown to our teachers and one of my greatest fears is that our best teachers will leave DCPS after this school year. Losing staff at Amidon-Bowen Elementary and other schools that serve high-need populations will not only disrupt our stability and progress made over the past few years, it will significantly hamper efforts to help students who have fallen behind during the pandemic. We need you to step up now and provide the oversight (or at least adult supervision) to ensure that we are positioning our students for success in what will be a very difficult instructional year. Thank you for the opportunity to testify.

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