All public school students, teachers, and staff in Washington D.C. will have to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test result before they head back to classrooms from winter break, according to the city’s new plan released Wednesday.
While the 2021-2022 school year at D.C. Public Schools (DCPS) still begins on Jan. 3 as originally planned, Jan. 3 and 4 are now designated non-instructional days to allow families and staff to pick up a test and use it before returning to class on Jan. 5.
The DCPS told parents that they can pick up a test at any school location, but they have to wait until Jan. 4 to test their children, since tests given before that date will not be accepted. All families must upload their children’s negative test results to the school district’s website by 4:00 p.m. on Jan. 4.
“Any student that does not have their results uploaded by Jan. 4 will not be allowed to attend school on Jan. 5,” DCPS Chancellor Lewis Ferebee said at a Dec. 29 press briefing.
“It is true that we have asked our principals and teachers to do a lot. Please, families, don’t also ask them to do what could have been done on Tuesday,” Mayor Muriel Bowser said. “We’re providing the tests. We’re asking you to do the swabs, wait 15 minutes and upload the results with the proof [of] the test. That’s it.”
For those who test positive for COVID-19, the DCPS officials ask that they reach out to their schools’ main office so their absence can be reported accordingly, and that they observe all isolation guidelines from the city’s health department that their children’s health care provider.
When asked whether there will be a systemwide school closure if the number of positive tests reach a certain threshold, Bowser said individual schools will make their own decisions whether to shut down or stay open.
The move comes after Bowser declared a state of emergency over the spread of the Omicron variant of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus. Now the dominant variant of the virus in the United States, Omicron is found to be more transmissible than earlier strains but less likely to causes severe COVID-19 symptoms.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Washington is one of the nation’s leading jurisdictions in new COVID-19 cases. As of Dec. 29, the city has seen a 7-day average of 2,054 cases per 100,000 people, compared to 2,270 in New York City, 1,211 in New Jersey, and 884 in the rest of the State of New York. The nationwide 7-day case rate is 584 per 100,000 people.