Answers to Questions about Our Phased Approach to Reopening

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Updated February 25, 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.

During our recent town halls, we answered many questions from community members. While we work to post those questions and answers to this page, we invite you to watch the recordings of the town halls:

Thursday, February 11
Watch the Recording

Saturday, February 13
Watch the Recording

See the slides from our town halls here.

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

Our next reopening email, about the expansion of in-person learning, is scheduled for the week of March 1.

Creative Care Classrooms

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: 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 this document 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 overview of our health-and-safety plan 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.

Concerning COVID-19 testing: We have partnered with Elaine Ellis, a local healthcare clinic. Since December we have been offering all staff and their families COVID-19 PCR testing at the school free of charge. Participation is voluntary but is strongly encouraged for those coming into the school building. Currently, testing is offered once a month. As we work to reopen, the frequency will increase to twice a month, and the program will be expanded to offer COVID-19 testing to students learning in person and their families.

In-person Learning

Question: When you select students to return for in-person learning, will students with an IEP have priority?

Answer: Having an IEP was one of the factors we considered when identifying students for Creative Care classes, our first phase of reopening. Also considered were attendance, academic progress, engagement in virtual whole-group and small-group lessons, and social-emotional development. The first round of students invited to come in person in March were those who were experiencing the greatest need. We look forward to being able to offer additional in-person spaces in April.

The School Calendar: Breaks & the Last Day of School

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 right now we’re expecting to go ahead with break as scheduled.

Several families have asked about extending the school year—something that we are discussing but haven’t made a decision about. We’ll share more information about reopening in the email we send the week of March 1.