This evening on a conference call with city educators, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced that public schools will not reopen as planned on April 27th. The Mayor justified her announcement by explaining that in an effort to protect the safety of its citizens a decision to allow students to go back to class cannot come until the number of coronavirus cases in the District of Columbia begin to go down. Ms. Bowser has predicted that the peak in infections here will not be reached until the middle of the summer.
As of Today there were 1,097 confirmed people infected with the COVID-19 with 24 deaths.
The conversation included Deputy Mayor of Education Paul Kihn, State Superintendent of Education Hanseul Kang, DCPS Chancellor Lewis Ferebee, DC Public Charter School Board Executive Director Scott Pearson, and Director of the District of Columbia Department of Health Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt.
Ms. Bowser began by thanking all of the educators who have rapidly implemented plans to teach their students through distance learning. She also complimented schools for providing free meals to their children. Finally, the Mayor took note of the private DC Education Equity Fund that is raising money to provide students with computers and internet access.
After concluding her remarks, the Mayor accepted questions from participants. The first inquiry came from Susan Schaeffler, the founder and chief executive officer of KIPP DC PCS. She wondered whether the Mayor couldn’t offer an anchor date of two weeks or more from now for setting some expectations around when school might once again be accepting pupils onsite. Ms. Bowser said that this was not possible at this time. But she did point out that if an anchor date is needed she stated that she has gone to the D.C. Council to ask for an extension of the District’s public health emergency for another 45 days. She added that if conditions improved during this period it is possible a different option could be taken regarding the schools.
In response to another person on the line asking about the impact of the coronavirus on the school budget for the rest of this year and next, Mayor Bowser responded that she did not know. She did mention that the downturn in the economy has decreased revenue to the city by over $600 million.
On Friday, March 13th, Ms. Bowser shuttered DCPS beginning the following Monday, stating that they would reopen on April 1st. She said that she expected charters to follow suit, which they have done. Then on March 20th she delayed the start to April 27th. Today’s remarks now decrease the probability that the schools will reopen this term.