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'Cannot replace loss of a loved one' | Washington Teachers' Union wants policy changes following teacher death

It remains unclear how or where Ballou Stay Opportunity Academy teacher Helen Marie White contracted COVID-19.

WASHINGTON — In response to the COVID-related death of a D.C. school teacher, the Washington Teacher’s Union is demanding changes at DC Public Schools.

Helen Marie White was a beloved cosmetology teacher at Ballou Stay Opportunity Academy, an alternative adult program. While it is unclear where or how the teacher contracted the virus, according to Ballou Stay Principal Cara Fuller, White was among the first volunteers to return to the classroom in the fall. 

“She was excited and willing to come in to teach a craft that she loved,” Fuller said.  

According to DC Public Schools, White was last in the building Jan. 11 and reported her positive test result on Jan. 21. On Jan. 22, Principal Fuller sent a letter to the school community informing them that an individual tested positive and that the school was “deep cleaned and sanitized out of an abundance of caution.”   

RELATED: Ballou Stay school teacher dies from COVID | 'She made everyone feel important'

Mrs. Helen White taught cosmetology at Ballou Stay in Southeast WASHINGTON - COVID has claimed the life of a beloved DC Public Schools teacher, according to family and colleagues. Helen M. White passed over the weekend. She was a cosmetology instructor at Ballou Stay Academy, an alternative adult education program, since 2007.

In a letter addressed to D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and Schools Chancellor Lewis Ferebee, The Washington Teachers Union released this statement: 

“District teachers are ready to partner with you, to replace lost learning through expanded summer learning options and to ensure we can bring 100% of our students back into classroom setting for the 2021-2022 school year.  However, we cannot replace the loss of a loved one and we respectfully ask you to:

  • Ensure all DC Health and CDC COVID-19 guidelines and all provisions of the December 2020 MOA Between DCPS and WTU are strictly adhered
  • Establish a Situation Room to identify and respond to emergency issues requiring responses within 24 hours, (WTU wants to work with DCPS on this issue)
  • Establish clear metrics for the level of community spread that will result in a system-wide school closure
  • Require any school setting where exposure has been confirmed to close immediately for a least 24 hours to allow for deep cleaning
  • Ensure all educators, families and community members are notified within 24 hours of any possible exposure to COVID-19"
Credit: wusa9


WUSA9 is still waiting to hear back from DCPS regarding the list of requests. However, DCPS has stated in school communication that buildings are cleaned and sanitized after someone reports a positive test. 

It is unclear how widely distributed are the letters informing the school community of a positive case. 

RELATED: Harriet Tubman's ancestor wants to see the Maryland native on the $20 bill

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