All Washington, D.C., public schools will begin the year virtually on Aug. 31 until at least Nov. 6, Mayor Muriel Bowser’s office announced Thursday.
The announcement comes after the mayor last week tightened mask requirements and imposed a quarantine on travelers arriving in the district from coronavirus hotspots.
Students who do not have Internet access or a computer at home will be provided with the necessary technology, the mayor’s office said. Schools Chancellor Lewis Ferebee said D.C. had been collecting data from more than 13,000 respondents and found 44 percent of students do not have access to a device at home.
Deputy Mayor of Education Paul Kihn said the school system would continue to work on options for in-person learning for Term Two for families and students who need it.
The Trump administration and Republicans have long pushed for schools to reopen amid the pandemic, with Senate Republicans including more than $100 billion in school funding, aimed at retrofitting campuses to bring children back in the fall.
Health officials, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the CDC and Dr. Anthony Fauci, have warned of dire secondhand consequences if children are not brought back to school. But, with COVID-19 cases continuing to rise in large swaths of the country, teachers’ unions have threatened to strike if schools reopen in conditions they deem unsafe.
Bowser seemed to allude to the union’s unwillingness to return to the classroom as a factor in the district’s decision to return virtually.
“You know, I’m just going to speak candidly, if we don’t have teachers who want to come in person, we would have to find another set of adults who want to come in person,” Bowser said, according to WTOP.
D.C. reported 58 new coronavirus cases Thursday and no new deaths. The district has seen 12,057 cases so far and 584 deaths.