Advisory Neighborhood Commission 4B held its September 2020 public meeting Monday evening via Zoom. The commission serves the neighborhoods of Takoma, Manor Park, and Lamond-Riggs. This blog post will highlight some of the top stories from that session.
You can view a recording of the live stream here:
Campaign to Decriminalize Nature DC
In addition to the presidential election and the wide-open race for two At-Large DC Council seats, DC voters will have the option to weigh in on Initiative 81 at the ballot box. Initiative 81 is a DC voter initiative that, if passed, would make the enforcement of laws against natural plant medicines (entheogens) among the lowest law enforcement priorities. It would not make the substances legal. Lia Kuduk, an advocate for Initiative 81, spoke to the ANC 4B commissioners on Monday.
Key points of the initiative that were highlighted by Mr. Kuduk are that entheogenic plants have been shown to be effective for the treatment of several ailments, including addiction, anxiety, depression, and trauma. They also provide relief to terminally ill patients. Examples of these plants and mushrooms are peyote, San Pedro Cactus, and several types of mushrooms.
Supporters of the initiative hope to change the conversation about plant and fungi medicines in DC and in the country. Media typically depicts plants of this type as “Magic Mushrooms” that are used recreationally for hallucinogenic effects. However, Native North American cultures have been utilizing these substances for healing and ritual for thousands of years. DC residents who currently fear arrest or prosecution for using natural plant medicines hope that a change in law enforcement prioritization will allow these products to undergo further examination and study.
Learn more about Initiative 81 at DecrimNatureDC.org.
Deputy Mayor for Education Paul Kihn on DC School ReOpening
To the surprise of many parents of school-age children in DC, last week Mayor Bowser announced plans to reopen most DC schools by November 9th. Deputy Mayor for Education Paul Kihn joined the meeting to share some of the administration’s latest thoughts on why this might be a good idea and how the city might accomplish it.
Mr. Kihn began with a brief presentation, where he shared what he and the administration have learned in working with DCPS, the city’s charter schools, and the private schools since the pandemic began in March. He said:
We have learned a lot about virtual instruction since the spring. Delivery of virtual teaching and learning was dramatically improved over the summer.
Virtual learning works quite well for many, but there are some students for whom virtual learning does not work well at all.
We believe that getting kids back into classrooms when we can do it safely is a top priority.
He cited the two major reasons why the city is exploring this option:
- Academic work for some students is best done in a school setting for some students.
- Community building and the social and emotional health of students rely on relationships with their peers and caring adults. Those relationships can occur much more strongly in in-person settings.
He also stressed that if families want to continue virtual learning for the remainder of the school year, that will continue to be an option.
Preliminary Plans for reopening school included 13 “Student Support Centers” that opened today. These centers will be available for students who need or require in-person instruction, such as high school students in Career and Technical Education programs. Roosevelt High School is the Ward 4 school included among these sites.
Throughout this process, his office has worked with and studied 18 schools in the city that currently have at least some in-person instruction. Models range from part-time instruction to labs that occur as little as once per week.
Any plans for reopening target the beginning of the second term (November 9th) and are currently focused on the youngest learners.
He also said that we need to think about reopening as a long-term process of recovery process to help students make up the deficit from the learning loss that occurred from the spring through the fall.
During a lengthy Question and Answer period, Mr. Kihn responded to queries from the commissioners and the audience. The first question asked by Commissioner Yeats was, “What are the standards for disclosing COVID-19 information within schools?”
Mr. Kihn responded by describing the cohort model, which groups a teacher and a small set of students together for the entire school day. If anyone within the cohort tests positive for the coronavirus, only members of that group would need to be quarantined.
Another question asked how the city could ensure that school HVAC systems will be up to par. He responded that the city has partnered with a national ventilation industry group to inspect every school building and space. They found that while some schools just need upgraded filters, other buildings need more work.
Finally, several people asked about school cleanliness, especially for common areas such as bathrooms. Mr. Kihn stated that in addition to the regular custodial staff, each school would have access to a specially trained contractor that would be tasked with deep cleaning buildings at least once per week.
Folks, there was a lot of information presented here that I am sure concerned parents will want to dive into deeply. I would encourage you to view this portion of the meeting on the recorded live stream. You can jump to the beginning of this conversation here (link). You can also find the city’s COVID-19 guidance for schools at this link.
Report from Office of Ward 4 Councilmember Brandon T. Todd
Deputy Chief of Staff Dolly Turner shared a few news items from the latest DC Council legislative meeting:
- The Council unanimously passed the Office On Deaf and Hard of Hearing Establishment Amendment Act of 2020 last week. If signed by the mayor, this bill will create a new office to advocate for legislation and policies that address the needs of the city’s deaf, deafblind, and hard-of-hearing communities.
- New legislation was passed to protect renters from eviction during the pandemic. The prohibition of evictions during the health emergency was extended.
- DC Water has two programs in place to help residents who were affected by the torrential rainstorm in early September. The backwater valve program provides up to $6,000 to install a backwater prevention system in your home, while the remediation program offers up to $5,000 for general repairs related to the flooding event.
- Construction of the Takoma dog park has begun. Work is expected to continue through December.
Report from the Mayor’s Office of Community Relations and Services
Mr. KeShawn Harris from the Mayor’s Office of Community Relations and Services shared a few announcements as well:
- September 30th is the deadline for individual households to complete their U.S. Census forms.
- Leaf collection begins on November 9th. Due to COVID-19 and the need to help keep workers safe, this year the leaf collection procedure will be slightly different. DPW will drop off 20 paper bags at each home serviced by the agency. Leaves must be placed inside paper bags. The collection will still take place twice during the season. Be on the lookout for the collection schedule which will be mailed to your homes. Learn more here.
- Mr. Harris spoke with the principal of Coolidge High School in reference to community use of the track. He said that Principal Bright is “not opposed” to reopening for the community but they are currently working to repair a sinkhole on the track. Mr. Harris will provide an update in future meetings.
Report from the State Board of Education Representative – Frazier O’Leary
Mr. O’Leary continues to promote his book drive, which has donated over 10,000 books to local schools and food sites, to date. More contributions are needed. Please get in touch with him if you have books for students Pk-12. You can deliver the books to his house or he will come and pick them up. You can reach him at Frazier.OLeary@dc.gov.
About Advisory Neighborhood Commission 4B
Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 4B represents the Ward 4 neighborhoods of Takoma, Manor Park, and Lamond-Riggs. An ANC is a non-partisan, neighborhood body made up of locally elected representatives called Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners. The Commissioners are elected to two-year terms and serve without pay.
The ANCs’ main job is to be their neighborhood’s official voice in advising the District government. Although they do not have to follow the ANCs’ advice, District agencies are required to give the ANCs’ recommendations “great weight.”
These are the members of ANC 4B:
|Single Member District||Name|
|4B06||Tiffani Nichole Johnson||4B06@anc.dc.gov|
|4B09||LaRoya A. Huff||4B09@anc.dc.gov|