Testimony to DC Council on Return to In-Person Instruction in DC Public Schools

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Testimony on Return to In-person Instruction in DC Public Schools before the Committee of the Whole and Committee on Education Joint Public Oversight Roundtable, Council of the District of Columbia by Kimberly Perry, Executive Director, DC Action for Children

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

DC Action for Children and DC Alliance of Youth Advocates (DCAYA) recently merged to form an even stronger, independent voice for children and youth. We provide data analysis, policy solutions, and collective advocacy on critical issues facing our young people. We envision a District of Columbia where all kids, regardless of their race, family’s income, or zip code, have the opportunity to reach their full potential. 

We are also the home of DC Kids Count, a data resource that tracks key indicators of child and youth well-being; Under 3 DC, a city-wide coalition advocating for families with infants and toddlers; and now home to the newly formalized DC Out-of-School Time Coalition, which is broad and diverse serving thousands of students across the District.

Today’s roundtable about how and when we should return to in-person instruction directly affects the out-of-school community, which has a major stake in, and is greatly invested in making sure all of our students get the support they need to succeed. 

As we figure out the best path forward, it’s important that we engage every stakeholder and leverage all of the resources available during virtual learning and the eventual transition back to the classroom. We urge this not just because everyone deserves to be heard in this discussion, but because if we fail to properly engage stakeholders, our students will miss out on opportunities and resources that can help provide a bridge of support between now and the end of the pandemic. 

We are not talking about a small number community, according to FY2019 numbers, 21st Century Community Learning OST grants in the District served 9,078 young people -- 5,087 through DCPS. In FY2020, Learn 24 awarded 103 grants to OST programs that served 7,338 young people during the school year and 9,107 during the summer.

Some OST programs are able to provide safe, modified in-person programming opportunities at their own facilities or outdoors. Others, either because they do not have access to DCPS facilities, or because of health and safety concerns, exclusively offer virtual learning. To help illustrate the diversity of the community, and how DC’s OST providers are adapting and continuing to meet the needs of families and students, we’ve shared specific examples from members such as the Sitar Arts Center, Jubilee Housing, Higher Achievement, DC SCORES, and After-School All Stars, in my written version of this testimony. 

With school reopening plans paused, now is the right time to bring the OST community to the table so we can work together to best support families and students. Substantive conversations should include the following: 

  • How OST programs can better support students and families who need it most. 
    • Like connecting families in crisis with resources, including immigrant families that are particularly vulnerable in this environment 
    • Students experiencing homelessness or housing insecurity 
    • Support DCPS in getting Cares classrooms up and running.
    • OST programs can help ensure these identified students do not slip through the cracks.
  • OST programs can also support DCPS students during virtual learning to increase active student participation in school day and afterschool activities. 
    • For example, during professional development Wednesdays, OST programs could step in to offer extra programming to keep students engaged, 
    • or by offering students attendance incentives when they attend both day-time classes as well as after-school enrichment programs.

On behalf of the DC Out of School Time coalition, we wanted to share these stories with you about how programs are working to meet the needs of families and youth during the pandemic, and offer some concrete areas for where we could work together as we figure out how to move forward. 

December 2, 2020