CORONAVIRUS: Seattle Public Schools closing for at least ’14 calendar days,’ starting Thursday

12:36 PM: Seattle Public Schools are closing, according to an announcement sent to staff.

“Together, we are facing an unprecedented health crisis in our community. In our response to COVID-19, we must depend on the wisdom of our health experts and elected officials and lean on the resolve of our strong community.

We have been following the guidance of Public Health Seattle & King County and implementing preventive and responsive strategies, but in light of Governor Inslee’s request that all citizens practice measures to slow the spread of COVID-19, it is now time for the district to act swiftly. Starting tomorrow, Thursday March 12, Superintendent Denise Juneau and the Seattle School Board will close Seattle Public Schools for a minimum of 14 days as the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) currently guides. This necessary action is an effective way to disrupt widespread infection.

Beginning Thursday, March 12, all school building activities including school day instruction, childcare, health services, enrichment, etc. are canceled until further notice. Today, March 11, childcare and extended day supports will continue as planned. We have an emergency food plan which will be put into place on Monday, March 16. More information will be provided directly to families by Friday, March 13.”

12:51 PM: A letter has now been sent to families too. (Thanks for the forwards!) It’s now on the SPS website. The district is having a media briefing at 2:30 pm.

1:36 PM: The district tells us it will stream the briefing here.The news release we just received (see it here, PDF) clarifies that the closure will be for a minimum of 14 CALENDAR DAYS.

2:35 PM: The news conference is under way – watch here – and we will add any notes of interest. Superintendent Denise Juneau reiterates that not offering online instruction is a matter of equity. … School Board president Zachary DeWolf addresses students directly, both asking them to do their part, and saying the district is working to address questions such as how this lost time will affect on-time graduation. … Also speaking, Seattle Council PTSA president Manuela Slye, a West Seattleite, asking families to reach out to her organization t help coordinate volunteer help – president@scptsa.org .

2:59 PM: They’ve clarified that 14 calendar days means not the school calendar, but the actual calendar, two weeks.

73 Replies to "CORONAVIRUS: Seattle Public Schools closing for at least '14 calendar days,' starting Thursday"

  • Working mom March 11, 2020 (12:56 pm)

    What are working parents supposed to do?? Not everyone works at Amazon or Microsoft, this city is become so elitist.  Why not just tell people at risk to stay home, and allow working families to keep working?

    • Anne March 11, 2020 (1:09 pm)

      Wow-elitist-really?

      • BC March 11, 2020 (1:54 pm)

        Let’s try to take it easy on each other here. The loss of a single paycheck for many can start a spiral of debt and interest payments that sets you back months if not years. Reacting emotionally to that possibility and hoping for alternatives is natural. 

    • Kravitz March 11, 2020 (1:17 pm)

      Everyone is at risk – that’s the point; some more than others. It’s unfortunate that this will affect working parents that don’t have positions with the ability or luxury to work from home, but there are countless other people (without children) that are also in that same predicament. This is about trying our best to come together and keep an entire community safe and healthy. It’s going to be hard, but we have to stop thinking so much about ourselves and consider keeping other people safe as well. In the end, that will benefit all of us. We have to get through it.

    • Kersti March 11, 2020 (1:20 pm)

      Maybe you should listen to Inslee’s speech this morning and Dow”sThey are working on it. it’s not an elitist thing it’s an epidemic thing

      • Anne March 11, 2020 (2:42 pm)

        Kersti-I so agree with you on this! I watched the Governor’s speech this morning & while normally not a huge fan of his-I was this tmorning. Clear precise reasoning-in language we can all understand-with an emphasis on talking & listening to health professionals & scientists.Admitted the plans he’s putting in place -were hard to come to &  understands they will be hard on families & businesses-everyone. I was truly impressed with him & Dow Constantine. I urge folks to seek out the news conference & watch & listen.In the weeks to come (which might encompass already scheduled Spring Break for some schools)let’s try & help our communities-businesses, families,individuals through this. For working families-maybe some kind of reciprocal daycare-so the burden is shared.  Also -Please keep in mind the elderly & those with health issues & ALL with compromised immune systems. This virus while benign to many could be deadly to them.One thing the Governor repeated & which I believe as well—-WE CAN DO THIS!

    • Columbia Chris March 11, 2020 (1:27 pm)

      Sadly, the alternative is to keep the kids in school, risking an exponential increase in the spread of the disease, overwhelming the medical system, and leading to a lot of otherwise preventable deaths. This is a tough call in a no-win scenario, but closing schools may be the least bad option.

    • WSMom March 11, 2020 (1:36 pm)

      They tried for awhile to stay open for that very reason but got a lot of push back demanding they close.  I’m sure other districts will close now too. 

    • newnative March 11, 2020 (1:45 pm)

      There are much poorer places that have been doing the same thing already. This is not a local phenomenon. It’s Damned if you do, Damned if you don’t. 

    • Health first March 11, 2020 (1:49 pm)

      I know it’s chaotic right now with all the updates but ultimately in a outbreak we have to prioritize people’s health to control this from hitting records high. 

    • S. March 11, 2020 (3:03 pm)

      Talk to other parents you know. There are probably some who are staying home and would be okay with an extra kid. It’s not ideal, but better four or five kids in a house, then 400 in a lunchroom. I know I’ll be talking to my kid’s friends parents, to see if anyone is in your situation and wants me to have their kid during the work day.

    • vhw March 12, 2020 (8:29 am)

      Elitist?  What?Look, I completely get that this pandemic is going to be very hard on families.   But guess what?  Schools are not daycares.  Their purpose is not to provide you with “free” daycare. They have an obligation to do what they think is best for their students and for the community.  

  • WSmom March 11, 2020 (1:10 pm)

    I hear you – this is VERY unfair to so many working families.  The first thought I had was to do an e-mail chain to my neighbors with school age kids to stitch together informal care.  But, even that has problems if families don’t want to/can’t participate.  Families could call childcare centers not associated with SPS, but I’m sure they have limited spots available (and who could switch their childcare on such short  notice??).To employers of employees with kids – please be kind and patient.  You might also check out the new PFMLA law – it gives a portion of lost pay due to FMLA requirements and may apply in this situation.  https://esd.wa.gov/paid-family-medical-leave

    • Thistlemist March 11, 2020 (3:52 pm)

      Fair warning on the Paid Family/Medical leave…. They are extrodinarily overwelmed and per their web site and our personal exsperiance, applications are taking up to 10 to 12 weeks to process. If approved, you would get retroactive pay but this is far from a quick fix if lost income is hurting someones finances immediately.

  • Dawson March 11, 2020 (1:11 pm)

    Uh huh. And so the kids will be kept home, right? Doubt that will be the case.

  • Lovews March 11, 2020 (1:18 pm)

    Yes, those damn elitists getting sick and dying. How dare them interrupt your life.

  • StringCheese March 11, 2020 (1:18 pm)

    I will be looking for ways to volunteer to support families in need.  Please post any such opportunities that pop up in the community.

    • KM March 11, 2020 (2:05 pm)

      Same here, happy to help.

  • bolo March 11, 2020 (1:24 pm)

    Lots of commenters on the previous posts have been clamoring for this. Seems to have numerous benefits/drawbacks to either side of this decision.

    Currently I personally am tending to side with the educated scientific experts (epidemiologists, etc.) who have no financial interests in potential drug patents or other marketplace “killings” (think disinfectant, mask, glove sales angles).

  • PedroTheLion March 11, 2020 (1:24 pm)

    It’s ridiculous that the schools are not going to online learning. First a vast supermajority of kids have access to a computer, smartphone or tablet and the internet. Second, for the limited few that don’t, you can get a device for $50 (e.g. Kindle Fire 7) that will allow for remote learning and if needed provide a hotspot. Finally, for those with special needs and an IEP, facilitate an individual solution (which may include meeting at an empty classroom with an aid to help in the online learning process).In short, there is simply no excuse, only incompetence. 

    • KM March 11, 2020 (2:03 pm)

      Assuming families can just buy tablets for their kids who don’t have computer already is unfair. People are losing jobs and hours are being cut back, gig workers don’t have work coming in, $50 is a lot for many people. In addition, some children rely on school for breakfast, lunch, snack and after/before school care. This isn’t just about school work, it’s about equity for our community. Lack of school access is about more than education.

      • WS Guy March 11, 2020 (3:47 pm)

        I don’t mean to scare you,  but I’m going to  secretly use my computer to  help educate my kids without Seattle’s permission.  That is, despite their best efforts to avoid educating my kids during this break.  It will take extra effort, but in the process I might discover some great alternatives to public schooling.

        • WSB March 11, 2020 (4:07 pm)

          Just a note, there are WA public schools that teach entirely online. Our child did that for 7th and 8th grades, a decade-plus ago (then returned to SPS for high school, and is now doing well in college, though his campus in another state is joining the list of TFN closures). I recall that the service we used back then was technically part of some WA district outside Seattle, but residency was not required – TR

        • KM March 11, 2020 (5:26 pm)

          Knock yourself out! Online schooling is great for many kids, I have former students who have done very well in online schooling. That doesn’t negate the fact that many children who rely on a public schools for education, meals and care are vulnerable with this cancellation. Both of these things are true!

    • Kravitz March 11, 2020 (2:18 pm)

      @pedrothelion – where are you even getting your facts here? “Vast supermajority of kids have access to a computer, smartphone or tablet and the internet.” Uh, some kids don’t even have access to MEALS – which is a separate issue altogether with schools closing. Think through your statements before generalizing here. 

    • ColumbiaChris March 11, 2020 (2:31 pm)

      33 million Americans don’t have household broadband internet. A significant number of those simply can’t afford it. Online learning has a barrier to entry that leaves out the most vulnerable among us.

      • PedroTheLion March 11, 2020 (3:39 pm)

        Thanks for making my point – based on your figures 90% of the people in the US have access to broadband internet (and the number in Seattle is likely MUCH higher than the national average).Also many of the kids who don’t have meals (as referenced above) still have access to devices and the internet (something I know as a matter of fact thanks to Fortnite). It may be anecdotal; but let’s get real, we are taking small numbers here folks – there is just no will on the part of the district and certainly  no will to consider the vast majority of students).In terms of the $50 cost of a device for those who don’t have one or access to one; I was suggesting that it be provided by the district. How much do you think it’s going to cost to extend the school year? I would suspect a lot more than supplying students who don’t have access to a device with one for online learning. With a little coordination and effort, this could have been all set up and in place. 

        • Michelle March 11, 2020 (5:55 pm)

          Not that this entirely matters to this conversation — because comments on the WSB are not exactly going to impact SPS policies — but a number of children access the internet and Fortnite at their neighborhood library.

    • Joyce March 11, 2020 (9:03 pm)

      I understand that not all SPS students have access to online learning resources, but wouldn’t it be better to have the majority of kids learning and keeping current with their academics rather than penalizing everyone? The district could find ways to catch the rest of the students up or focus resources and staff time on those that need technology or assistance. It seems like SPS’s philosophy is “if everyone can’t do it, nobody can.”

      • ej March 11, 2020 (9:44 pm)

        This is exactly their philosophy.  They are tasked with providing FAPE (Free & Appropriate Public Education) to all students.  Providing online courses would exclude many so it would not be equitable.   

  • Jamal March 11, 2020 (1:28 pm)

    Any word on any of the West Seattle private schools?

    • WSB March 11, 2020 (1:43 pm)

      We reported on Westside School and Little Pilgrim (preschool) yesterday. A parent says Explorer West too – I am working to confirm that and check with other schools. Anyone with official communication, we appreciate forwards at westseattleblog@gmail.com – we will not violate your privacy or publish your name. Thank you. -TR

      UPDATE – Explorer West is on their website, closing as of tomorrow
      https://explorer-west.org/covid-19-information/

      • why_cause March 11, 2020 (2:01 pm)

        Hope Lutheran will be closing down after tomorrow. They were already out of school on Friday. They are working on a plan to continue with online learning.

      • Jamal March 11, 2020 (2:16 pm)

        Janet!? 😂😂

        • WSB March 11, 2020 (2:24 pm)

          I apologize. I need new glasses and for various reasons haven’t been able to get them – need to work on enlarging the font for my admin view. Fixing (took out the incorrect name on that reply).

    • W107saa March 11, 2020 (2:18 pm)

      West Seattle Montessori is waiting to hear from the CDC and the Office of the Superintendent to see what the SPS closure means for them.  But the director has conveyed over and over that if we don’t feel it is safe for us to send our kids, then keep them home.   She also expressed that plans are in place for remote learning, but no details have been shared yet.  

  • TWST March 11, 2020 (1:29 pm)

    “Why not just tell people at risk to stay home, and allow working families to keep working?”
    Because if this spreads quickly within schools, children will bring the virus home to their families, and then working moms will bring it to work, then infecting coworkers and the public.  It makes sense, since schools are densely populated, and children have the tendency to pick up germs at school and pass them on. I totally understand though this is going to greatly impact our community in many ways and I empathize with your concerns. This isn’t about our city being elitist though.  This is about a public health crisis that our government is trying to manage, to protect those who are vulnerable from dying.  I imagine this includes MANY people with underlying health issues, including anything respiratory and immune related.  Are you not concerned about other people’s lives being at risk? Hopefully the government will figure out some kind of assistance and relief to those impacted and who need it, especially for lower income families. That’s my hope. In the meantime, do the right thing and respect the advice and mandates and stay home with your children if needed. You won’t be the only one impacted, so don’t panic, there will be many impacted and there will have to be solutions.  The more we can do our part and minimize the spread, the less impactful and costly this will be on our community.

  • justme March 11, 2020 (1:33 pm)

    WorkingMom: You might think differently if your kid brought the virus home to you, and then you passed it to your job and all those people there. Just like the old shampoo commercial…”and they tell two friends, and they tell two friends, and they tell….” and so on.

  • Jen March 11, 2020 (1:35 pm)

    Thank goodness. It’s a really tough call, but one that I truly believe will save lives. They said more info will be released tomorrow, and they will be providing emergency food assistance starting Monday, I think. What we really need to do is figure out how, as a community, we support parents that need help getting through this. 

  • Stevenm March 11, 2020 (1:46 pm)

    It will also slow it down so the healthcare system can try to keep up.  I bet the schools will close for a longer period of time.

  • mwas March 11, 2020 (1:55 pm)

    Good call Seattle. This is a good reminder to talk to your neighbors and develop local support systems. We have to help each other out and we’ll all get through it together.

  • HS March 11, 2020 (1:55 pm)

    Perhaps we, as a community, can widen our info sharing circles. Working Mom has a valid worry about childcare and I’m sure others have a similar worry. Are parents organizing somewhere in particular – school email groups, an app, just neighborhood contacts, just family contacts? Please share what is working for you. Maybe it will help others.

    • WSB March 11, 2020 (2:05 pm)

      I’d like to add to that, while some I’m sure are creating social-media groups, etc., we also have a tool here if anyone wants to use it -our Community Forums. Usage of that section has gone down since the ascent of social media but we’ve kept the tool available for those who want/need it (as well as for a couple of ongoing uses such as job listings, non-pet lost/found). A login is required but you can get that via https://westseattleblog.com/log-in … Ultimately, your in-person neighborhood networking is probably the most powerful, they say – Rep. Jayapal (a nearby resident, last I heard) mentioned that on her call the other night – TR

  • Lena March 11, 2020 (1:57 pm)

    What about the older high school age kids earning from extra babysitting money taking care of a few elementary kids.  Even at $15 / hour if each could watch 3-5 kids that is fairly cheap.  

    And many teachers are in the at risk category – if they all stayed home it still equals schools closing.

    • herongrrrl March 11, 2020 (2:04 pm)

      This, or families who can have someone stay home can volunteer to watch a kid or two. This avoids large groups, which is the point of the closure, but I bet if we spread it out like this in small groups it could work?  Maybe something like this could be coordinated in places like the WS Blog forum?

  • Ws resident March 11, 2020 (2:37 pm)

    I say the slow restaurants open up some informal child care for up to ten15 kids, charge a daily rate then the restaurants make a wee bit of money, families get some relief and it’s people helping people. 

    • LyndaB March 11, 2020 (7:32 pm)

      What a neighborly thing to do!  Support local business and also show the kids what community is all about!  I like it!

  • J March 11, 2020 (2:38 pm)

    I’m sure some our worried about defaulting on mortgages. Housing prices have made finances too tight even for households with multiple working adults. I hope we figure this out, this virus is an emergency like we have never seen.

  • TM March 11, 2020 (2:47 pm)

    As difficult as it will be, I think in many ways it will bear positive outcomes. The restrictions are smart and somewhat low-acuity in the grander scheme. Think of folks in conflict zones, refugee camps, natural disasters. We residents of the US and our kids have grown used to getting a lot of what we want when we want it, and putting ourselves first. We’ll get stronger through the adversity and hopefully help avert a much more impactful crisis. We’ll need to look out for each other, be kind, and simplify our lifestyle. I know from recent related experience that for week-to-week or paycheck to paycheck folks this is going to be a grind or worse. And having my own kids now at home it’s going to be unwieldy. But hopefully we can find solutions with neighbors and smaller communities, and be part of the bigger solution while riding this out.

    • Mandy March 11, 2020 (5:49 pm)

      I love this comment. So true!

    • TWST March 11, 2020 (9:51 pm)

      I appreciate this too, thoughtful and well said, thank you

  • Anesthesiamom March 11, 2020 (2:52 pm)

    I do wish there was a contingency plan in place to care for kids of healthcare workers. The public needs them to be able to go to work.

    • Marie m March 11, 2020 (4:02 pm)

      Parent of Wshs student here: I understand completely that they can’t go online because there are families without computers and/or internet. But why can’t they at least provide homework/ work from home assignments for students? Couldn’t teachers spend the day tomorrow generating homework that could be mailed to students?

  • Gina March 11, 2020 (2:52 pm)

    Perhaps as a community we could provide tablets for those that need them, though without municipal internet/wifi access would still be problematic. 

  • TomT March 11, 2020 (3:13 pm)

    WOW!!! Is “free” daycare in school your only concern? On another note, based on Public Health’s new “under 250” guidelines library’s will have to close also!

    • Jethro Marx March 11, 2020 (5:21 pm)

      School is more than just daycare; ideally, kids learn, among many other important skills, how to spell and use apostrophes. 

  • PedroTheLion March 11, 2020 (3:56 pm)

    Just a reminder – every employee who works in Seattle has paid sick and safe leave which pays 100% of wages for absences like this. Outside of Seattle, only non-exempt employees have paid sick and safe leave.  When and if that runs out, there is also paid FML, which every employee in the state has and which is covered by this situation. 

    • Marie m March 11, 2020 (4:04 pm)

      True but employers might cut hours or let go employees for taking advantage of these. Welcome to service industry. 

      • flimflam March 11, 2020 (5:01 pm)

        i work in the service industry as well and while i understand money concerns are a real thing, i think its nuts that we are open – we were busy today again as well, so people “working from home” are deciding to just go about there business and pack a public place. it feels totally irresponsible and i have some serious decisions to make over the next few days, employment be damned. i have a pretty good job as well, but it feels ridiculous to be in a packed restaurant right now.

    • Thistlemist March 11, 2020 (5:45 pm)

      Again, just so people understand their options, the new State Medical/Family leave is not automatic or quick turnaround like unemployment… Right now there is a 12 week wait time for applications to be reviewed…. Phine waits are 2 to 4 hours… You will get retroactive pay if your approved but again, as of now, it is a two to three month wait. They were completly overwelmed by new parents and people who had been putting off surgeries…. This might only make it longer.

      • momosmom March 11, 2020 (6:35 pm)

        Exactly! We have employees at work who were approved for the WA.FML in January and still have not gotten any money. Funny how the deduction has been coming out of your pay since last year and still is and they had all of last year to figure it out and people are still waiting for their money. :>/So don’t count your chickens before the eggs are hatched

  • A March 11, 2020 (4:29 pm)

    I applaud Seattle Public Schools for finally deciding to close.  We need to protect our vulnerable population.  I realize that this is difficult for many families but that’s what is expected in a pandemic.  We have to take strict measures and closing schools is one of them.

  • WSResident March 11, 2020 (4:52 pm)

    I noticed that the Zoo is closing and the Museum of Flight and possibly other Museums along with the schools. I have to wonder why the YMCA isn’t closed. It seems strange to have it open when the kids will be passing germs along there.    

  • Orwell March 11, 2020 (5:37 pm)

    If children still gather outside the home or bring in other children and thus are almost as likely to infect eachother, thier families and neighbors  who in turn could bring these infections into the workplace, does it really make any sense to close schools?It is only logical that if schools are closed, children should stay at home and keep distance from others to make the school closure worth the effort for the  community.  Right?From the comments I see here, it is worthless to close the schools, yet the City has  not commented to my knowledge about social distancing school children thus imposing economic and health consequences to many for no reason.

    • Teacher in local school March 11, 2020 (8:00 pm)

      The difference is that at school, there are 700 kids in close proximity to each other versus under 10 (for example) – if they are home and hanging with friends. The goal is to slow the spread. The cats already out of the bag. 

  • Anon March 11, 2020 (7:05 pm)

    We have multiple schools of about 1000 students here in West Seattle. If the virus took hold in a crowded group that big then it would move very fast, and a thousand youths could carry home COVID nearly all at once. If a handful of kids get together and pass COVID to each other, and 5 kids catch it at a time, and bring it home, then the transmission actually is slower. That’s the goal, to slow transmission in our community. So, school closures do achieve the goal. And we have some evidence of slowed disease transmission from the snow storm a couple years ago. If transmission moves too fast then there will be too much need for hospital beds all at once and hospitals will have to choose whom to provide treatment for. Those are hard choices. Look up the news in Italy if you want to see what overwhelmed hospitals look like. It’s not pretty…especially with respiratory failure. Our hospitals have been running very lean, with horribly low staffing ratios already. They need this help. It is for the good of everyone. That is why schools are closing now. To ease your mind, most kids play video games alone now anyway rather than play in the neighborhood, and parents usually have to force outside play.

    • Elton March 11, 2020 (8:42 pm)

      It cascades down to daycares, too, with employees having to stay at home with their school age kids. With toddlers and infants, you have to have pretty direct adult supervision from someone, video games won’t cut it.Not saying the decision to close schools was wrong, just pointing out the perhaps not obvious downstream impacts. 

  • Hcjones13 March 12, 2020 (1:54 pm)

    Hi All – We are looking for ways to support families during the school closures. Does anyone have any recommendations for local organizations that need donations to feed kids during the school closure? Would love to help in any way. 

    • WSB March 12, 2020 (2:01 pm)

      West Seattle Food Bank needs $ most of all.

  • Darryll S Wolf March 12, 2020 (3:51 pm)

    Wow. SPS has absoutely no plans for teaching during mandatory closures and calls their failure an equity issue.  This is a failure at the top.  I find it interesting that a district that relis on email and text alerts to push messages to families is citing equity as the blocker exactly when it should matter most. Juneau is as lame as her predecessors. (Bring on the ad hominem  attacks, SJWs!)  

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