Recommendations on Public Health Guidance for Schools from Public Charter School Leaders

Mar 8, 2021

The District of Columbia’s public charter schools are committed to providing safe, nurturing, learning environments for our 44,000 students and safe working environments for the thousands of teachers, staff, and leaders who support them. As school leaders look ahead to the 2021–22 school year, they recognize that it will be difficult—if not impossible—to provide quality in-person learning environments for substantially more students given current public health guidance.

Dozens of schools leaders offered their recommendations for updated health guidance, and the DC Charter School Alliance compiled their varied recommendations here. We hope that these recommendations spark communication between city officials and school leaders about how best to safely bring more students back into school buildings:

Essential Updates to Enable In-Person Learning for Substantially More Students

  • Increase the maximum cohort size to at least 20 or, if possible, 30.
  • Allow students to move between classes or cohorts to mix.
  • Provide clear, timely public health metrics and indicators to inform schools’ decision-making about in-person learning.

Additional/Alternate Updates to Enable In-Person Learning for Substantially More Students


  • Utilize space guidelines (e.g., 36 square feet per student in a classroom) instead of cohort-size guidelines, which would allow schools to make better use of large classrooms and open spaces.
  • Reduce the distance between students to three (3) feet.
  • Allow increased cohort sizes if certain mitigation measures are in place (e.g., enhanced in-room filtration units).
  • Remove the requirement that schools clean outside play equipment between groups, but require students to wash their hands after recess or physical education classes.
  • Make the health screening requirement optional.
  • Require cleaning and disinfecting high-touch hard surfaces between groups rather than “deep cleaning”.
  • Allow schools to use their health suites as isolation spaces.
  • Provide less restrictive guidance for outdoor learning.
  • Prioritize vaccinations for students who are 14 years old or older in early August, or as soon as possible.
  • Be clear about when and how DC Health’s recommendations are different from those of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.