By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
Seattle Public Schools has already said they’ll definitely stay in all-remote mode at least through late January. Now they’re mulling extending that until March. That’s part of what emerged from a School Board work session tonight.
District staff updated board members on possible options and logistical challenges regarding potential re-opening before the school year’s over. The primary factor remains health/safety, and the current King County infection rate is far above the level considered safe.
But there was much to discuss about readiness. Any decision to restore some in-person learning would still mean some remote learning, too, as families would have that option. Staff would have that option, too, said human resources chief Dr. Clover Codd – so they’d have to survey staff after a reopening decision to see who might request the “accommodation” of continuing to work remotely. She also warned that a return to on-campus learning could displace some of the many child-care programs that have been using SPS facilities.
If the district chose to go hybrid, that could mean a variety of options. Maybe in-person for preschool through 2nd grade, for example, as the youngest students are the ones most in need of in-person support.
Another option – an A/B rotation for all grades, though that could adversely affect families by presenting an inconsistent schedule.
Those are not the only options – just ones the staff presented as examples. Other logistical challenges were detailed by chief operations officer Fred Podesta – ramping up everything from transportation to meal service, considering that they wouldn’t be able to use lunchrooms the way they were used pre-pandemic. Reconfiguring classroom furniture, too.
They’ve roughed out what kind of lead time would be required, but Podesta warned that it’s “conceptual” at this point
In board Q&A, there was a question about whether local superintendents had been conferring about resuming in-person learning after the winter holiday break. No, replied SPS superintendent Denise Juneau. Multiple board members, including West Seattle/South Park’s Leslie Harris, expressed frustration that the district still hadn’t ramped up in-person services for special-education students, while other districts have made it happen.
Board members had many other questions that they wanted staff to be ready to answer during a retreat coming up on Saturday, and they requested data such as what classrooms’ capacity would be in the pandemic-safe mode. Since this was a work session, no decisions were made tonight, but the retreat could result in a decision on what to do next, and when.