The D.C. Public Charter Schools Where Masks Are Still Mandatory

Washington, D.C., one of only a few major metro areas to have removed the mandate that students wear masks, made history on March 16th. Mayor Muriel bowser, a Democrat from D.C., stated that students attending D.C. Public Schools are no longer required to wear masks.

Of course, this isn’t always the case in practice. Kamala Harris, the Vice President, visited Thomas Elementary School earlier this week and took photos with children. The photo shoot was attended by every child wearing a mask. Harris did not.

Thomas Elementary has not responded to my request for comment on its masking policies. So it is unclear if Thomas Elementary requires that masks be worn. It is possible that the school has a mandate to wear masks. In fact, many of the city’s public charter schools—which are overseen by a school board that is separate from DCPS—have kept mask mandates in place. Many have no plans. EverStop the mandate. It is a cause of great frustration for many parents.

Lindsay Elman is a parent of a Mundo Verde Bilingual Public Charter School child. She said that the principal informed them that masks were still needed indoors.

Mundo Verde Charter School is one of five D.C. foreign language immersion schools. It runs from kindergarten through fifth grades. They serve as feeder schools for District of Columbia International School. DCI teaches sixth to 12th grade. These schools are generally adhering to mask mandates.

DCI is still sticking to an indoor mask mandate. Students have the option to wear masks. outdoors as recently as March 28—last week.

“They wore them during sports, outdoor track was masked,” says Lauren Peterson, a mother with three kids—twin seventh graders and a 10th grader—at DCI. Peterson took her fourth child to Elsie Whitlow Stokes charter school in D.C., where she was also a teacher. However, Peterson did not want the masks mandates being removed for good.

Yu Ying Charter school, a dual-language charter in Chinese and English, will wait until April 25 before lifting the mask mandate. Yu Ying is also enforcing a travel quarantine: Unvaccinated students—a category which includes virtually all the pre-K students—and their immediate family members are forbidden from leaving the D.C.-Maryland-Virginia area. If they do leave, they must abide by a 7–10 day quarantine period.

Families with children in these schools should not be surprised that the policies adopted are stricter than those recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Paul Fraioli, parent of Paul Fraioli says “Parents aren’t really allowed into the building for any purpose.” They wanted the items touched by children to be cleaned up until about a month ago.

Parents interviewed in this article were frustrated with school officials who promised to follow CDC guidelines and scientific consensus, but then abandoned the promise after health professionals deemed de-masking safe.

Elman, the parent of DCI, said that “for the past twenty plus years we have followed the science as if it were the Bible, but now people’s rational fears are taking control of these policy decisions.”

Fraioli points to the fact that the CDC has stopped using raw case numbers for its COVID-19 metric. Federal health officials are more concerned with the hospitalization rate. But Yu Ying is focused on community spread—case counts—to determine its COVID-19 policies. In the school’s security and health plan it notes that not only are there but also many other factors. outdoorIf the community spread level rises from low to moderate, mask mandate can be reintroduced. This plan includes obsolete recommendations, which unnecessarily advise staff and students not to touch masks or to clean their hands if necessary.

The plan states that they should be careful about removing their masks and to wash their hands once they have removed them. Keep the mask away from children. If someone touches your mask, use a new one.

Yu Ying refused to comment on this article. None of the schools replied to any requests. Peterson, Elman, Fraioli and Elman said that strict policies reflect parents’ preference more than theirs. Many teachers indicated in surveys that they were only comfortable working in the schools if the mask mandate remain in place—even though virtually all teachers are vaccinated, as are most students. No matter how vaccinated they may be, children are very unlikely to experience severe COVID-19 side effects.

Charter schools are meant to give families more options than the public school system. Some charter schools could be used as “enclaves” of students. More Compliance with COVID-19. This matches parents who are more concerned with teachers and education environments that align with their interests. If more kids—preferably, All kids—had the option to benefit from school choice programs, then students and parents could sort themselves into the schools that fit their comfort level.

Unfortunately, this is far from the truth. Most kids are obligated to attend a specific public school assigned to their ZIP code, and teachers unions across the country have constituted a powerful interest group in favor of keeping public school students masked—and, until recently, in virtual classrooms. Randi Weingarten (president of the American Federation of Teachers) has stated previously that she wants to see no transmission in schools before she supports the elimination of masks.

D.C. public charter schools don’t generally have unions, but Mundo Verde signed up for AFT two-years ago during the height of the pandemic. In any case, it’s disappointing that the somewhat different governing structures of DCI, Yu Ying, and other schools in their cohort have not produced better results from the standpoint of mask-and-distancing-weary families.

Fraioli says, “I have never seen my son’s kindergarten teacher in real life.”