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'I am very concerned when I see students who don't show up to class' | Some students are falling behind in DC's distance learning model

Attendance continues to be one of the biggest challenges so far.

WASHINGTON — D.C. leaders are still working out details on what school will look like in the fall. But some teachers say one of the largest challenges is making sure every student is part of the plan moving forward.

With just three weeks left into the D.C. Public School year (May 29 is the new last day of school), the digital divide continues to be one of the system's biggest challenges.

“I am very concerned when I see students who don't show up to class. I just, I hope, that they're OK," said Carolyn Fado. 

Fado is an 11th grade special education teacher at Columbia Heights Education Campus. She said an average of half her students have shown up to online classes that are provided. She knows the challenges go beyond access to technology.    

“This is traumatic, particularly for any students who have family members who've been sick, or if the family has issues with finances,” she explained. “What's worked the best so far has been calling students and calling their family members.” 

Fado said she and her colleagues at Columbia Heights Education Campus call several times a week. She said it can be emotionally draining, but afterward, more students show up to virtual class.

According to The Washington Post, DCPS Chancellor Lewis Ferebee expects a "gradual ramp-up" to full, in-person learning. He even said students could possibly spend some time with their old teachers to help them address the academic and psychological damage done during the pandemic. 

“If what's the safest is continuing virtually or a hybrid model, then I think we should do what's safe based on science, but also make sure that it's equitable,” added Fado. 

She believes equity means making sure no one is left behind because of technology or trauma. “During this pandemic, we have students dealing with all sorts of different issues, it's really important to individualize and modify to meet each student's needs,” she said.

If you’re a teacher and you have thoughts on what you and your students need as many consider what school looks like in the fall, email newstips@wusa9.com.

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