TESTIMONY for Joint Committee of the Whole and Committee on Education-Distance Learning
Ward 8 parent and disability and education advocate-12/2/20
Good Morning Chairman Mendelson, Councilmember Grosso and the Committee on Education. My name is LaJoy Johnson-Law (Ms. Law), and I am a concerned Ward 8 Resident, education and disability advocate, but most importantly, I am Abria’s mom. I am here to share the voices of my community and families that are unfortunately not able to be here today. Unfortunately, COVID-19 has disproportionately affected Ward 8 and our east of the river community deserves to be heard and not pushed to the side. Many families are concerned about sending their children back to school and how we have implemented the attempt to reopen school. Many families do not feel it is safe to go back to school right now with a rise in COVID cases. So today, we call on the Council to acknowledge and implement the following:
- We call on the council to mandate a collaborative safety plan to both DCPS, Charters and Early Childhood Centers in regards to physically reopening ALL schools and their hybrid plans. What if a family that has children that are in both sectors and someone in their household contracts COVID19 and now everyone in that household is at risk and the children are in different schools, does everyone in the household and the respective schools have to shut down to quarantine? There are so many multiple factors but everyone needs to be on the same page: Mandate cross sector collaboration—there needs to be a united health response to reopening schools for the safety of everyone.
- We call on Council to provide oversight into DCPS’s communication plans with families and teachers. Many families have been concerned about not receiving adequate and timely information in regards to the reopening plans or being told they must send their children back when it is the family’s decision for a child to return to school.
- We call on the Council’s Committee on Education to establish a new community, family, teacher, school and student led Reopen Education advisory committee to collaborate with the executive branch on the reopening of schools to ensure decisions are being made with all stakeholders.
- We also call on Council to mandate a new online distance learning plan standard—schools, families and teachers should have the option to continue public education learning in a distance learning setting. There are many families that are having great online experiences and should be able to continue this method of learning in the future.
- We also call on Council to look into other Innovative approaches to learning such as outdoor learning. There have been studies and other jurisdictions around the country that have adopted this approach to keep students engaged.
- Lastly, we call on the council to invest in emergency mental health resources now and when children return back to school to properly address the trauma happening due to the pandemic. If we can invest 10 million dollars in helping businesses, then we can invest in our children’s mental and emotional well-being.
We understand that this is a tough time for everyone and this is an unprecedented pandemic and no one has a roadmap but we must ensure that we are making decisions with all of our stakeholders which include schools, teachers, families and students. This public health emergency has only shown us the deep inequities that we have in our school system, inequities that we should all be ashamed of allowing to go on for so long and we should all be committed to improving these inequities immediately. DC cannot continue to allow any more inequities in our education system. WE ARE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER! Thank you,
LaJoy Johnson-Law (Ms. Law)