With thousands of District of Columbia Public School (DCPS) students returning to school in less than a week, Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) updated residents on preparations for a remote term at her August 26 situational update.
The first term, which begins August 31 and ends November 6, will be entirely virtual. DCPS Chancellor Lewis Ferebee urged parents to ensure their children are enrolled in school, which families can do by visiting enrolldcps.dc.gov. Families who need device or Internet access should reach out to school directly, he added.
Schools will take attendance on a daily basis, and students should log in at a designated time to be marked present. This week, families will receive a DCPS “Family Guide to Learning at Home,” which includes technology tips, attendance guidance, grading information and mental health resources.
Ferebee said the key to preventing chronic absenteeism is forming teacher-student communication networks early on, which DCPS teachers and administrators plan to facilitate.
“It is critical that we continue to reach out to families should a student not log in, and immediately try to understand and get more information around a particular absence,” he said.
In light of increased rates of mental illness and stress among Americans, Department of Behavioral Health Director Barbara Bazron said she is working with education partners to launch the school-based parental support program to support parents juggling work-from-home, remote learning and isolation. As part of the program, families can access a mental health hotline available 24 hours a day and 7 days a week.
“The hotline is staffed by licensed social workers, psychologists and counselors, including bilingual clinicians who can address crisis situations, offer guidance to address family stressors and link parents to school based clinicians or early childhood specialists,” Bazron said. “All services are confidential, and will be provided at no cost.”
Families can reach the hotline at 1-888-793-4357. Families can also access individualized support, including grief counselors, and Bazron is working to launch a web-based parental support network called Wellness Wednesdays, which will launch September 2 via WebEx.
Deputy Mayor for education Paul Kihn said schools will continue to provide free and reduced price meals for students, but a family’s local educational agency (LEA) will now provide those meals. Families should keep in contact with school leaders to determine where the meal distribution sites are located, he added.
Insurers Must Cover High-Risk COVID Testing
Bowser announced that DC-licensed insurers are now mandated to cover the cost of COVID-19 testing for high-risk residents. Insurers must cover testing for some asymptomatic people who work in high-risk settings, are at high risk for complications from COVID-19, or have been exposed to a recently diagnosed person. The coverage includes once-a-week testing with no cost sharing and without prior approval from a doctor.
As of August 25, DC Health reported 38 new positive COVID-19 cases and one additional death, bringing the case and death totals to 13,722 and 605, respectively. View more COVID-19 data here.
Additionally, DC Health Director LaQuandra Nesbitt urged parents to ensure their children are up-to-date on vaccinations as the school year approaches. The District has seen a decline in childhood immunization rates due to COVID-19’s impact on the healthcare system.
Children can receive vaccinations by visiting their healthcare provider or DC’s school-based healthcare centers, which are listed here. Nesbitt added that parents should ensure their children receive a flu vaccine, especially as the coronavirus persists in the District.
Eva Herscowitz is a journalism student at Northwestern University currently interning with Capital Community News. She writes for Northwestern’s student newspaper, The Daily Northwestern. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org