D.C.’s Largest Charter Network Wants City To Let It Offer Robust All-Virtual Option In Fall

By Perry Stein

The District’s largest charter network wants to offer an ­all-virtual option in the fall to any student who meets certain academic qualifications — a break from the mayor’s announcement that only children who have ­doctor-approved medical exemptions would be allowed to remain virtual.

KIPP DC, which educates more than 7,300 students, is attempting to address the reality schools are facing across the city: Many families, particularly in communities of color, do not want to return to school buildings next month.

The reasons are varied, including immunocompromised children and relatives, fear of the delta variant, skepticism that schools are safe, mistrust of coronavirus vaccines, and a preference for virtual learning.

“I am not sending them back in August,” one parent said, according to a report compiled by the charter network that included interviews with families. “If I have to continue to school them from home or do another program or virtual school I will do it.”

KIPP DC surveyed families in June to gauge how they felt about returning and found that 47 percent of families said they were unlikely or unsure about returning to school buildings in the fall. But most of these families also said that they trusted the school and that there was nothing else KIPP could do to make them feel safe.

“Our posture is in-person learning five days a week is ideal,” said Andhra Lutz, a KIPP DC administrator who would head the virtual program. “We are trying to get as much information out to families as possible while still respecting them. We are not forcing them into anything.”

Officials at KIPP are asking the D.C. Public Charter School Board — the mayoral-appointed panel charged with overseeing the charter sector — to approve a robust virtual academy for a few hundred students, based on families’ initial expression of interest.

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