Ward 6 Update: Back to School, Early Childhood Educator Pay Equity Fund, & Pool Updates

I want to start this newsletter with a big thank you to everyone who came out for the return of Ward 6 Week after a two-year hiatus! It was great to connect with you all and get out into the Ward to celebrate our wonderful neighborhoods.

It’s hard to say what my favorite event was, but I loved that so many of you could join us at Artechouse, and having our littlest Ward 6-ers along for a firehouse tour on Barracks Row was pretty special. I’m already looking forward to doing it all again next year for Ward 6 Week 2023!

With school right around the corner (and even starting this week for a few schools), I’m going to focus this newsletter on lots of back-to-school resources and information for parents and families. I’ll also, of course, touch on other things like my usual public safety update, the status of some neighborhood pools, and proposed locations for voting sites for this November’s election.

Quick Links: Back-to-School ReadinessBack-to-School Vaccines | SWS Modernization | Backpack & School Supply Giveaways |“Back-to-School” Payment for Families Enrolled in TANF |“Kids Ride Free” SmartTrip Cards | Early Childhood Educator Pay Equity Fund | Pools |Public Safety Update | Monkeypox UpdateWard 6 Day at Nats Park | W6W Recap | Bicycle Advisory Council Nominations | BoE Vote Center ProposalDC State FairGreat Zucchini & "Found You" Bunny Sculptures | American Roots Concert Series | NE Sewer Repairs

Back-to-School Readiness Visits & DGS Issues

Last Friday, I made several unannounced visits to some of our Ward 6 DCPS schools to check in on their readiness to welcome everyone back this fall. I found teachers setting up their rooms and excited to see the kids again, but also some buildings that were not ready and have urgent needs that must be addressed. We focus oversight on this year-round - and I’m talking with teachers, parents, and students throughout the year to solve problems that come up. But understandably, the last few weeks of the summer become crunch time to get ready for the new year. And there’s still a lot of work to do. My office has been escalating repairs at several schools over the summer and working with DGS on a backlog of work orders. Earlier, I also sent a letter to DGS Director Anderson and DCPS Chancellor Ferebee to highlight some of the more urgent, outstanding repairs. As a DCPS parent as well, I understand the frustration waiting to get these things fixed. Please know that I’m continuing to push DGS to get these addressed as soon as possible, and thanks to our school communities for bringing many of these issues to our attention.

Back-to-School Immunization Requirements

Parents and guardians, your children are required to be up-to-date on a variety of immunizations before school starts, including the COVID-19 vaccine for kids 12 and older. If they’re not within the first 20 days of school, they won’t be allowed to attend school or school activities until proof of immunization is provided. This is more than just a public health priority; it’s also an important education issue. We all know how much the pandemic impacted our students’ learning - and led to significant learning loss for some. Nobody should be missing school and losing out on vital classroom time. You can visit your family pediatrician or any of the DC Health mobile vaccination sites, which provide free back-to-school vaccines to District students. Note: you must register ahead of time. Visit https://dcpsstrong.com/vaccines/ to learn more about back-to-school immunization requirements.

** I’ve had some parents ask me about DCPS masking policies for this upcoming school year. DCPS has announced that masks will continue to be optional. You can find more details from DCPS about their COVID protocols and policies here: https://dcpsstrong.com/sy22-23/#covid-19-health-safety.

** In addition, please note that every DCPS student and teacher is REQUIRED to show a negative COVID test to return. Free tests will be distributed by schools and at all COVID Centers. For K through 12 students, the test must be taken on Sunday, August 28th. For preK3 and preK4, the test must be taken on Wednesday, August 31st. More information and how to upload test results are found here: https://dcpsstrong.com/testing/.

SWS Modernization 

As a part of our work to modernize every school in Ward 6, School-Within-School @ Goding is wrapping up its full modernization - scheduled to be completed soon to welcome kids back for the first day. And check out this beautiful mural outside the school by local DC artist MISS CHELOVE!

Upcoming Backpack & School Supply Giveaways

I had a great time talking to kids and families this weekend at a Back to School celebration helping hand out free backpacks and supplies. So many smiling faces! There are two more backpack and school supply giveaways coming up in Ward 6 that I want to flag for families: 

  • The DPR King-Greenleaf Community Backpack Giveaway this Friday, August 26th, at the King-Greenleaf Recreation Center (201 N St. SW) from 1-3pm. *Note: you have to register ahead of time on the DPR website. You can reserve up to four tickets.
  • Join me at the Ward 6 Mutual Aid/Serve Your City Back to School Bash and Youth Festival this Saturday, August 27th, at Audi Field from 11am-4pm.

One-Time “Back-to-School” Payment for District Families Enrolled in TANF 

Last week, the Mayor and Department of Human Services announced that families enrolled in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program will receive a one-time “back-to-school” payment of about $1,000. The funding is from pandemic emergency funds the District received from the federal government through the American Rescue Plan. These payments will be a big help for families to offset back to school costs like supplies, uniforms, and more that can add up, especially for families already struggling.

“Kids Ride Free” SmartTrip Cards for Students

The Kids Ride Free SmartTrip cards for the 2022-23 school year will be available next week for pickup. New students get priority, and the 2021-22 school year cards from last year will remain valid until September 30, 2022. Make sure to pick yours up to take advantage of free Metro, bus, and circulator rides that can get your kids to school, sports, and internships and save your family money on travel this school year. Learn more on the Kids Ride Free website.

Apply for the Early Childhood Educator Pay Equity Fund

Last year, I helped lead the Council to pass the “Homes and Hearts” Amendment to the District’s annual budget, funded by a modest tax increase on the District’s wealthiest earners. We all saw how unevenly and inequitably the pandemic hit our city (and our country) and this crucial amendment we passed went straight to that issue. By asking just a little (for example, just $35/month for an individual earning $300,000/year), we’re doing big things for those hardest hit. My Homes and Hearts Amendment created several transformational programs (like a monthly basic income) that will help the District recover from the pandemic and residents continue to live and thrive in a city that’s getting increasingly harder to get by in.

And another one of those programs is the Early Childhood Educator Pay Equity Fund, which recently opened for applications. Our early childhood educators aren’t paid nearly enough and these positions are predominantly filled by Black and Brown working women - already facing inequitable pay in the workplace. These pay increases are yet another part of the overall Birth-to-Three effort to grow and expand excellent early childcare for every family in DC. Eligible early childhood educators can now apply for a supplemental payment of up to $14,000 - a very big deal! There is informational webinar tomorrow at 6pm if you want to learn more. The deadline to apply is September 20, so if you or someone you know is a childcare worker, spread the word about applications! If you need assistance completing an application, please reach out to my team or check out the FAQs and info sessions at the link above. 

Neighborhood Pools Updates

Many neighbors have reached out about the state of several of our neighborhood pools, so here are some of the latest updates on repairs and funding for future design and construction. 

The latest closure at Rumsey Pool was due to an HVAC issue – parts came in two weeks ago, repairs have been made, and Rumsey has reopened. But long term, Rumsey’s on its last legs. I’ve worked at the Council to provide funding for a major renovation, to begin with design work in the budget for next fiscal year ($3 million in FY23 and $12 million in FY24). The emergency closures for quick patches and repairs just aren’t cutting it - the pool needs a significant overhaul, as so many rely on it. I’ll share more as those bigger plans move forward in the coming months. 

The status of East Potomac Pool, which has been closed since 2018 for renovations, has suffered from a serious lack of communication. After redistricting, this pool is now in Ward 6 and I’m trying to get a more comprehensive handle on what’s happening, but in short, there are complications and disputes with the assessments needed for repairs. I’ll be sure to keep you apprised as soon as I have firmer details and updates.

I also secured funding for renovations to the Rosedale Pool in the budget ($1.1 million in FY23 and $5.7 million in FY24). While it’s no longer technically in Ward 6 post-redistricting, so many of us still love and use it. The main issue is that the capacity isn’t enough for the high demand. Planning hasn’t yet begun, but the idea is to expand the pool on the south side to increase the number of lanes and pool size. Construction should be scheduled to take place in the “off season” for outdoor pools. 

And let’s not forget about Randall Pool in Southwest. While I generally hear good things about the operations there, I know DPR needs to work on providing more lap swimming opportunities there and more shade options on the deck! I’ll work with DPR on these and other improvements.

Public Safety Update

Earlier this month, the Office of the Attorney General had a major win in the effort to keep dangerous and untraceable “ghost guns” out of our community. I’ve worked legislatively at the Council, and in partnership with MPD and OAG, to ensure our laws recognize the harm and danger these guns represent in the community. And the AG’s efforts are a big deal. The District won a $4 million lawsuit against Polymer80, a manufacturer and distributor of gun parts, including those that can be used to make AR-15s. The rise of ghost guns in the District and throughout the region and East Coast has been dramatic and concerning - MPD recovered three ghost guns in all of 2017, and 439 in 2021. They’re just as deadly as fully-manufactured guns, and do-it-yourself gun kits and parts sold by Polymer80 are much easier to get and harder to track. While this suit won’t solve the District’s ghost gun problem by itself, it helps stop the flow into the District and hold bad actors accountable. I’m grateful to Attorney General Karl Racine, his team, and law enforcement for their partnership in getting illegal guns off our streets and keeping District residents safe.

Updated Monkeypox Data & Vaccine Availability

Last week, my colleagues and I sent a letter to DC Health requesting expanded data and better public communication about monkeypox in the District. DC Health responded by publishing an online dashboard breaking down case numbers by various demographics. While this is a great step to help us determine how to better approach vaccine and treatment equity and target the most impacted populations, there is more to be done when it comes to expanding communication to lower-risk groups and those who don’t use social media, and providing more details on vaccine distribution. It was also announced last week that DC Health has shifted to a new intradermal injection strategy to increase availability for residents to get both doses. Those who received a first dose should begin receiving emails with an option to schedule their second dose. 

DC still has the highest per capita number of cases in the country, with 350 as of last Wednesday (data is updated every Wednesday), so comprehensive public awareness is critical right now. I’ll be sure to share more information as we hopefully receive more data and guidance from DC Health. As a reminder, eligible residents can now pre-register for a vaccine appointment or go to any of the three walk-up clinics on Fridays.

Ward 6 Day and Summer Reading at Nats Park! 

If you know me, you know that two of my favorite activities are watching baseball and reading. Come join me this Sunday for both! My office has 150 tickets for Ward 6 families for the Summer Reading Sunday read-along with Sean Doolittle at 12:15pm, followed by the Nationals vs. Reds game at 1:35pm. RSVP on my website. Hope to see you there!

Ward 6 Week Recap

Thank you again to our neighbors who came out to events last week to mark the return of Ward 6 Week, as well as to the organizations that partnered with us! This year was particularly special given our two-year hiatus due to COVID. My team and I had a great time safely celebrating Ward 6’s best summer activities and getting to connect with you across the Ward.

Nominations Open for Ward 6 Member of the Bicycle Advisory Council

Are you a cyclist who cares about biking issues in the District and Ward 6? The DC Bicycle Advisory Council is an official government commission that advises the Mayor, Council, and District agencies on the interests of cyclists. Each Councilmember appoints one member, and our Ward 6 seat is open. My office is accepting nominations, so if you or someone you know is a good fit, please fill out this form.

Board of Elections Proposal for the General Election

The November 8 General Election is approaching. In preparation, the Board of Elections has posted proposed locations for 25 Early Vote Centers, 90 Election Day Vote Centers, and 55 Ballot Drop Boxes. The proposal includes the same Ward 6 locations for Vote Centers and ballot drop boxes as the Board used in the Primary Election. As a reminder, Vote Centers are city-wide polling places, and voters can use any location regardless of their home address within the District during both early voting and on election day. Early Vote Centers will also be used as Election Day Vote Centers.

DC State Fair

After a two-year hiatus, the DC State Fair is returning next month on Sunday, September 11! Come down to the FREE event for family fun, music, art, workshops, competitions, and of course plenty of food! Enter one of the many contests, and if you’d like to lend a hand, the State Fair is also seeking volunteers to help out with a variety of events.

The Great Zucchini & Unveiling of the "Found You" Bunny Sculptures

Join me on Saturday, September 10 for two fun activities at our beautiful Eastern Market Metro Park: 

  • Renowned children’s entertainer, The Great Zucchini, will be performing a colorful magic show!
  • Join us at the Eastern Market Children's Playground Park for the official unveiling of the new "Found You” bunny sculptures, created by artist Beth Nybeck. There will also be a competition to name each of the bunnies.

American Roots Concert Series

Looking for some musical family fun to kick off the fall? The Hill Center is hosting three upcoming free concerts as a part of the American Roots Concert Series. Featured artists are I Draw Slow (September 11), Kaia Kater (September 18), and The Revelers (October 2). Tickets are free but must be reserved online.

DC Water Sewer Main Replacement Project

Northeast neighbors, I want to make sure you’re aware of a new DC Water construction project that’s started between the 200 blocks of 8th and 9th St. NE. DC Water has been addressing some sewer-related issues in the alley that were identified during routine maintenance. They have been cleaning and removing sediment from the grates in the alley, as well as conducting inspections on the sewer lines. The inspections revealed the need for a more extensive repair than originally planned, including replacement of the two sewer lines in the alley. The work has been turned over to a contractor, and the project is expected to continue through this week. Affected residents should have been notified of this project by DC Water.

I hope our Ward 6 students are getting excited to return to school (or at least to their friends again), and that you all enjoy these last few days of summer fun. I hope to you at Ward 6 Day at Nats Park, the Back to School Bash, DC State Fair, or any of the other exciting events happening in Ward 6 and around the District in the next few weeks! 

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