Answers to Questions about Our Phased Approach to Reopening

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Updated March 12, 2021

On this page we’re posting the questions we’ve received about our plan for reopening the school building, and the answers we’ve shared with families.

Helpful Resources

Recordings of our March and February town halls

• Slides from our March and February town halls

March 2 email to our community

If you have questions that aren’t answered on this page, please submit them through our Google Form.

At-school Learning

Question: What percentage of those requesting at-school learning will be offered a spot?

Answer: It will depend on the number of staff returning to school and the number of students who are interested in returning. We’re also limited by building space as we follow CDC guidelines for the use of our school building. Right now, we can’t give you a percentage of students that will be offered a spot. We’ll share more information after we’ve analyzed all our data.

Question: Will you allow additional students to join at-school learning later in the spring if space permits—for example, if some students return to remote learning at home?

Answer: Our goal is to safely bring back to school as many students as we can, and whose families are interested. We’ll consider different options over the next few months.

Question: When you select students to return for expanded at-school learning, will students with an IEP have priority?

Answer: In selecting students for expanded at-school learning, we gave priority to students who most need the additional support of attending classes in the school building. These are the factors we considered in defining student need:

  • Assessment data
  • IEP progress monitoring
  • Attendance in remote classes
  • Participation/engagement in class discussions
  • Completion of assignments
  • Whether a student is an English-language learner
  • The home learning environment: Did the student have a quiet space at home? Was the student caring for younger siblings?
  • Whether the student’s parents/guardians are essential workers
  • Reliability of the home internet connection


Question: Will new families have the opportunity to see the building before expanded at-school learning starts?

Answer: Yes, there will be opportunities! We’re figuring out how we can schedule time for new families and students to safely visit the building and become familiar with the space before at-school learning starts. Each socially distanced visit will be limited to a small number of people.

Question: Will the Creative Minds playground be open to students not attending classes at school?

Answer: The Armed Forces Retirement Home is restricting access to campus and requiring that all visitors be on official business, such as attending school at Creative Minds, or otherwise have an appointment. The playground will be available only to students learning in the school building.

Students will use the playground, at recess, within their cohorts. A complicating factor in allowing other children to use the playground is the need to maintain the integrity of cohorts, for the sake of safety.

We’ll continue talking with the AFRH about permitting families to use the playground and considering what we can do to make that happen. Right now, our focus is on safely bringing students back to the building.

Note that any final decision will rest with the AFRH.

Creative Care Classrooms

Question: Will Creative Care students still attend school four days a week when expanded at-school learning starts, on March 29?

Answer: In the expanded program that begins on March 29, students will be participating in remote classes at school, four days a week: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. Creative Care students will continue with the schedule they’ve had since March 1, though some Creative Care students may be assigned to a different cohort when more students return to school.

Question: How did you determine which students needed more support and would be invited to Creative Care?

Answer: We looked at many factors:

  • Assessment data
  • IEP progress monitoring
  • Attendance in remote classes
  • Participation/engagement in class discussions
  • Completion of assignments
  • Whether a student is an English-language learner
  • The home learning environment: Did the student have a quiet space at home? Was the student caring for younger siblings?
  • Whether the student’s parents/guardians are essential workers
  • Reliability of the home internet connection

Question: How and when will we know if our children were chosen for Creative Care? How did you select students for Creative Care?

Answer: Families selected for Creative Care classrooms received a phone call on Friday, February 5, with more information. In Creative Care, which begins on March 1, students will attend class in the school building and participate in the same remote lessons that their peers are participating in at home. Teaching staff will be in the classrooms to help students with technology and academic learning and to offer social-emotional support.

We chose students for Creative Care on the basis of academic need, using data and teacher feedback to determine which students could most benefit from in-person support.

Health & Safety

Question: How often are school bathrooms being cleaned?

Answer: Our bathrooms are cleaned multiple times a day, as well as every morning and every night. Cleaning during the day happens while students are at recess, to minimize interactions.

Read more about all cleaning practices in our Guide to At-school Learning.

Question: Do windows in the school building open?

Answer: Some of the windows open; many of the windows in our historical building are equipped with an old-fashioned rope-and-pulley system. We’ve brought in a general contractor to look at the building and tell us what would be required to make all windows open.

The engineering firm Setty & Associates performed a building assessment in June 2020. We’ve implemented Setty’s immediate recommendation: placing in all classrooms and offices a portable high-efficiency particulate-air and ultraviolet-C (HEPA/UV-C) filtration device that kills 99.9 percent of airborne coronaviruses and influenza viruses and cleans the air every 10 minutes.

A feasibility study for improving building ventilation and fresh-air flow is under way.

Question: Are all Creative Minds teachers now eligible to receive vaccines through DC?

Answer: Yes, they are.

Question: Why aren’t you taking the temperature of everyone entering the school building?

Answer: A temperature reading isn’t the most effective indicator of COVID-19, and DC Health does not require schools to take temperatures. At drop-off, taking temperatures would be a lengthy procedure, as well, and would require that students began arriving several hours before the start of the school day.

We will be requiring a daily health screening. See our Guide to At-school Learning for more information.

Question: Can you tell me about the protocols for health and safety that will be in effect with the return to the school building?

Answer: Please see our Guide to At-school Learning for all health and safety protocols. Included are protocols for meals, arrival and dismissal, using the bathroom, moving throughout the building, and more.

Question: Why weren’t all interested staff members vaccinated right away?

Answer: The first round of vaccines for educators at DC charter schools were available only to staff members who were providing in-person services at that time, and we submitted the names of some staff members for that phase of vaccinations. When vaccine appointments opened for staff who would be working in the school building, we also submitted names; those appointments happened through a city partnership with One Medical. The latest change is that school staff should now request appointments through the DC Health citywide portal. Staff who would like to be vaccinated will be signing up for appointments in this way.

The pace of vaccinations across the city is, of course, subject to vaccine availability.

Question: Will you be testing staff and students for COVID-19 at school? If so, how often will they being tested?

Answer: We have a COVID-testing program in place, through a partnership with Elaine Ellis Center of Health. All staff and students learning and working in the school building, and everyone else in their households, are eligible to receive a COVID-19 test; participation is optional. The testing, which happens every other Wednesday at school, is for community members without COVID-like symptoms. Our Guide to At-school Learning and this document have more information about the testing program.

Protocols are in place for addressing any COVID-like symptoms that arise in a student at school. These protocols include testing the student for COVID-19, if consent from a parent or guardian is on file. Read more in our Guide to At-School Learning.

If your child returns to school, we’ll share information about how you can sign up for our testing program.

Question: What is the protocol for responding to a COVID-19 diagnosis in a community member working or learning at school?

Answer: In our Guide to At-school Learning, find the scenarios that outline our responses to COVID-19 in our community—they align with the scenarios created by the Office of the State Superintendent of Education.

We also have a process for addressing a student illness at school. You will find that information in the guide, as well.

Question: Have any plans been put into motion to improve ventilation at the school?

Answer: In April 2020, we hired an HVAC consultant to assess the airflow in our building. Recommendations included both short- and long-term actions. Our immediate safety upgrade was the installation of a portable high-efficiency particulate-air and ultraviolet-C (HEPA/UV-C) filter in each classroom and office. The units are sized to realize six air changes per hour.

A feasibility study for improving building ventilation and fresh-air flow is underway. Please see our Guide to At-school Learning for an overview of our plan for health and safety. The longer Continuous Learning and School Recovery Plan also has information about health and safety practices and protocols.

Question: The CDC says that among the things a school needs to do to ensure a safe reopening is making sure that the level of community spread has decreased. How confident are you about beginning your phased reopening of the building on March 1?

Answer: We have been working to safely reopen since April 2020; for more information, please see our Continuous Learning & Reopening Plan. In addition, we strongly recommend attending one of our reopening town halls, on February 11 or February 13, where Chuck Jackson, Creative Minds’ executive director, will provide more information and answer questions.

Question: Will masks be required for students and staff? Will families be required to report whether they have been vaccinated? Will staff be required to get vaccinated?

Question: Here is my concern (from your recent email): “We are not requiring staff members to be vaccinated before returning to the building, nor are we mandating that vaccinated staff work at school.” Why? Do staff members get mandatory COVID-19 tests? If so, how often?

Answer: Masks will be required for both students and staff, as per Mayor Bowser’s order. If a person does not have a mask, Creative Minds will provide one. Please see the Guide to At-school Learning for more information.

Concerning the reporting of vaccination status, Creative Minds follows the requirements of the Office of the State Superintendent (OSSE) for reporting students’ compliance with the vaccines mandated by DC Health. To participate in in-person learning, students must be immunization compliant and have a current Universal Health Certificate on file. In coordination with the school nurse, the Operations Team has been contacting families who are immunization noncompliant. Currently, no COVID vaccine has received emergency-authorization use for children under the age of 16, and OSSE does not require schools to report on students’ COVID-vaccination status.

There are multiple reasons that we are not mandating COVID-19 vaccinations for our staff:

1.Currently, the COVID-19 vaccinations (from Pfizer and Moderna) have only emergency-use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and do not have full approval.

2. We must comply with federal law, which balances equal opportunity of employees with public safety. Currently, the legality of mandating COVID testing and vaccination is evolving. For example, federal law explicitly prohibits employers from mandating COVID antibody testing.

3. There is currently a supply issue with the vaccine. It is unclear when there will be enough vaccine doses for everyone who wants to be vaccinated. However, we are working with DC officials to get our staff on the eligible list for vaccines.

Although these are the reasons that we are not mandating the vaccine, we are strongly recommending that all staff consult with their healthcare providers and are encouraging staff to consider the vaccine.


Question: Will students bring their own lunches to school, or will you provide lunch?

Answer: Students have the option of receiving free breakfast and lunch at school or of bringing meals from home. Snacks should be brought from home.

Please remember that we offer no facilities for refrigerating or heating lunches and that Creative Minds is a nut-free school.

Question: Will students have the opportunity to eat meals outside, weather permitting?

Answer: Yes, within their cohorts, students may eat outside when the weather allows. We will be following the safety practices in our Guide to At-school Learning.

Remote Learning at Home

Question: Will students staying remote see a change in teachers?

Question: When more students return for expanded at-school learning, what changes will students who are learning remotely at home see in their schedules?

Answer: Remote learning at home will remain a strong program, and we anticipate few, if any, disruptions to students’ schedules. Though the teacher who holds office hours or hosts a tutoring group may change, this is not a certainty. Students at home will continue to have a consistent learning experience with the teachers they know—an experience that supports their academic learning and social-emotional development.

The School Calendar: This Year & Next Year

Question: Will Creative Minds offer activities for students over the summer?

Answer: In July, we usually host Extended School Year, or ESY, for students with IEPs and 504 plans who need additional time and support in making progress toward their goals. Right now, we’re thinking that there will be ESY this summer, though this is not yet certain. We’ll share more information when it’s available.

Because our students will have spent all or most of 2020–21 learning remotely—and some students who started with Creative Minds this year have never been inside our school building—we’re exploring ways to bring students to campus over the summer and build their confidence about learning at school. We’d also like to give students the opportunity to socialize with their peers, though much will depend on the public-health situation. We will keep you informed.

Question: Do you have a schedule for 2021–22? Is the start date set for fall 2021?

Answer: The start date for next school year is Monday, August 30. Our Academic Calendar for next year (like this one for 2020–21) will be released in the spring.

Question: Have you given any thought to what the next school year will look like?

Answer: Federal and other experts are estimating that about 70 percent of the US population will be vaccinated for COVID-19 by late summer or early fall.

We are cautiously optimistic that we’ll all be back together at school in the fall of 2021; this is what we are planning for as we put together our frameworks for next year. Because we know that much has been uncertain during the pandemic, we are ready to change course, if we need to.

Question: Will the school year be extended, or will it still end on June 15?

Question: Spring break is scheduled for mid-April, after in-person instruction is targeted to begin. Could spring break be rescheduled to the end of March, canceled altogether, or shifted to multiple three-day weekends? I ask both for virus-containment purposes and continuity of being in the building / not missing any more in person instruction opportunities. Thank you!

Answer: We considered different options for spring break, looking at the likely disruptions from both changing and not changing the dates of break, and decided that it will go ahead as scheduled.

The city’s education leaders have not mandated summer school or an extended school year. Our focus is on bringing as many students back to the building as we can and collecting even more data on how they’re doing, in terms of both academic learning and social-emotional development. This will factor into our discussions about summer and the end of the year.

As you know, social-emotional development is as important to us as academic learning. We’ll also be considering the social-emotional impact of an extended school year, as well as how extending the year might affect our families and staff.

The School Day

Question: During the past year of at-home remote learning, has the curriculum been the same as in a typical year?

Answer: We have stayed true to the scope and sequence in all our curricula, but the amount of time teachers spend on different components has decreased to accommodate the remote school day. We’re proud of the program we’ve put in place, and the balance of screen and away-from-screens time we’ve implemented, but we have not been able to precisely duplicate what we’ve done in person.

Question: Will middle school students stay in one classroom or move from classroom to classroom?

Answer: At school, students will be grouped into cohorts of ten or fewer. Each cohort of middle school students will stay in a single classroom, not move from class to class.

Question: I’m concerned about my child not knowing the teacher she’s assigned to if she returns to the school building. Can you address this?

Answer: During our remote-learning program this school year, students have worked with all teachers at a grade level. We designed the program in this way so that any student who returns to school will know the teacher he or she is assigned to.

Special Education

Question: What is the plan for a summer program for students with IEPs? How will you choose these students?

Answer: In July, we usually host Extended School Year, or ESY, for students with IEPs and 504 plans who need additional time and support in making progress toward their goals. Right now, we’re thinking that there will be ESY this summer, though this is not yet certain. We’ll share more information when it’s available.

Question: What will service delivery look like for students with IEPs and 504 plans who are in the school building? Will there be push-in and pull-out services?

Answer: We will follow the DC Health guidance, which recommends a limited amount of cross-cohort movement. Our plan is to continue offering related services remotely, as per the student’s current schedule, with as little change as possible. We will review our practices on the basis of any new guidance from DC Health.