Sandra Moscoso Testimony – Special Committee COVID-19 Recovery and COW Hearing: DC Ed After COVID-19 – May 26, 2021

Special Committee on COVID-19 Pandemic Recovery

and the

Committee of the Whole

Joint Public Oversight Hearing

The District’s Public Education System After the COVID-19 Pandemic

May 26, 2021

Chairmen and Councilmembers. I am Sandra Moscoso, treasurer of the Ward 2 Education Council, a parent of two students at School Without Walls High School, and a resident of Ward 6. 

Thank you for asking important questions families have been asking about the city’s plans on health, education, and recovery.

I am heartened by the Chancellor’s and the Mayor’s optimism that schools will open SY22 with full-time in-person instruction, but like many families who feel burned by the past year of starts and stops, I struggle to trust. On learning recovery, I would like to understand the evidence DCPS has used to determine tutoring makes more sense than hiring more teachers and smaller classrooms. I want to reinforce Dr. Betsy Wolf’s testimony and the questions she asks. 

I worry that like Summer 2020, putting all their eggs in the basket of in-person will again mean DCPS will not ensure families have technology and internet. I want to reinforce the Digital Equity testimonies and related, I want to remind everyone that many of our schools relied on librarians to get technology ready, train teachers, and generally support virtual learning. 

Finally, I am really worried about physical space, and whether schools will be ready to reopen at full capacity (or in the case of my daughter’s school, at full over-capacity). School Without Walls, has a building capacity of 520, yet enrollment is steady at 600. As a result, most teachers share classrooms (which added to the complexity of in-person scheduling this year). We’re packed to the gills on a good day. 

We have no outdoor space, and while school administrators have pursued expanding out into our terrace, (we have already heard that engineering experts have said this is not feasible), without DCPS support (and outside expertise) to look at alternate space, we will face another chaotic reopening, without a plan in place to manage unknown Covid measures.

I recently asked a DCPS representative about the use of federal funds to temporarily rent nearby commercial space. The answer was that this would have to come from capital funds, which is frustrating, as we all know federal funds can be used towards facilities. 

Individual school space assets will vary. Some schools might rely on outdoor space, others might look to nearby commercial space. In every case, schools need central support from experts who can provide recommendations based on school needs. I really, really worry DCPS will leave schools without support or funding on facilities. I feel for central office and the weight they bear under all of the moving pieces, but they have been given federal resources to support schools. It is disconcerting that this year is winding down, and like this time last year, there is no evidence the public can point to that DCPS is staffing up or procuring expertise to support facility readiness. 

It has been such a tough year of knock down drag out fights – many of which could have been avoided. I’m hoping for your help in ensuring we don’t face another year of chaos. Without planning or support, we will either find ourselves unable to accommodate all students + distancing, or we will find ourselves in unsafe situations. Both scenarios are bad and 100% avoidable.

Thank you for this opportunity to testify.

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