WASHINGTON, DC — As District residents prepare for the upcoming phased reopening of the city, many parents and young people are wondering what that will mean for D.C. Public Schools. In particular, will graduating seniors get to celebrate their commencement?
“For the class of 2020, we want you to know that we have not forgotten about you. We’re looking forward to celebrating your graduation and your experience in D.C. Public Schools,” said Dr. Lewis Ferebee, DCPS chancellor, during a Friday morning press briefing with District officials.
Each DCPS high school will have its own virtual graduation ceremony in June, so that graduating seniors and the families can celebrate the occasion remotely. The date of each virtual graduation will be the same as what each school has already scheduled for its graduation ceremony.
“We know that traditional milestones for our seniors will look different this year, but we remain committed to having joyful students enter graduation celebrations for the class of 2020,” Ferebee said.
D.C. high schools are finalizing plans for how seniors will be receiving their graduation caps and gowns, yearbooks, and additional celebratory materials.
“We want to celebrate with you,” Mayor Muriel Bowser said, during the press briefing. “We want to see you all over social media about how you’re celebrating with your families and planning to stay in touch with your friends as well.”
On Thursday, Bowser announced the District was on track to begin a phased reopening on Friday, May. 29, provided the city continues to achieve milestones laid out by the D.C. Department of Health.
Based on recommendations from the D.C. ReOpen Advisory Group, the phased reopening will come in four stages, with the District entering Phase One on May 29. The advisory group recommended allowing summer camps and museums to reopen with restrictions in Stage Two and relaxing those restrictions slightly in Stage Three.
If the District enters into Stage Two of its phased reopening during the summer, DCPS would be able to offer some in-person learning at its schools, provided the proper social-distancing safeguards are maintained.
DCPS will be offering virtual learning this summer for students in kindergarten through high school, as well as an extended year program for students with disabilities and supports for English language learners.
“For our K-8 students, this will mean an enrichment opportunity, with a focus on literacy and mathematics, and also opportunity for students to have a hands-on experience at home,” Ferebee said. “High school students can continue to take courses. Also, middle grade students can as well. In addition, for those students who need credit recovery, this will be an opportunity to earn additional credits.”
DCPS is planning a summer bridge program for students transitioning from grades second to third, fifth to sixth, and eighth to ninth.
“We will provide a bridge opportunity to begin to build their network and relationships between students to students, and students to adults,” he said.
Typically, DCPS serves approximately 5,000 students during the summer with two to four hours of programming.
Bowser also announced Friday the James and Alice B. Clark Foundation is making a $10 million investment to the D.C. Education Fund, in support of DCPS Persists.
“This is a new program that will provide students in the class of 2020 and beyond a guaranteed support network as they head off to college,” she said. “Starting in 2020, 750 college-bound DCPS graduates will get connected with a DCPS Persists coach to help them navigate and transition to college.”
DCPS Persists coaches will check in regularly with the students during the first two years in college.
“We know how important it is for our students to get to college,” Bowser said. “It’s even more important for them to finish college to prepare them and set them up for careers that allow them good paying jobs to live right here in Washington, D.C.”
While it remains unclear whether the District will be in Stage Two later in the summer, Paul Kihn, the deputy mayor for education, said DCPS is already making plans for the start of the next school year. Whether students will be learning in-person at their school or virtually from home, the 2020-21 school year will start on Aug. 31.
Like DCPS, the D.C. Parks and Recreation Department will be adapting its summer plans to the phased reopening. DPS will be offering a Camp At Home experience for young people in the District.
“Camp At Home is a blend of self-directed activities, digital content and some online engagement, think about arts and crafts, culinary activities, science experiments, and outdoor exploration,” DPS Director Delano Hunter said. “These offerings will be free to District residents to include an activity guide and all of the supplies that one would need to have a quality Camp At Home experience.”
If the District enters Stage Two of its phased reopening during the summer, DPS will offer a Fun In Sun Camp, which will serve 3,24o campers through two-week engagements.
“This will have a heavy outdoor emphasis on socially distant games and activities across 27 locations, Hunter said.
The District will also be offering its Summer Youth Employment Program in a modified format. On June 22, 10,000 young people will have the chance to start their first day of work through the program.
“We will be hosting several virtual options for young people who have already applied, certified, and are currently going through the orientation process for SYEP,” said Dr. Unique Morris-Hughes, director of the Department of Employment Services.
Ninety percent of SYEP will be virtual, meaning participants will either intern virtually at a host site or community-based organization with which DOES is partnering. In addition, DOES will offer more than 200 hours of work-skill content for young people on its Career Edge Platform.
“Some of our 22-24-year olds will have expanded opportunities to work and learn important skills in the workforce,” Morris-Hughes said.
Young people interested in learning more about SYEP can visit the program’s website. DOES is also updating the portals of individuals already in the program with more information.
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