What would it take for Seattle Public Schools to resume some in-person learning? Here’s what the board heard

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.

26 Replies to "What would it take for Seattle Public Schools to resume some in-person learning? Here's what the board heard"

  • Person November 30, 2020 (9:44 pm)

    That was a very painful meeting to listen to. Meeting about planning about talking about meeting. I don’t think Seattle will get back to school fully for years. Even with a vaccine and after everyone else is back :(

    • Resident November 30, 2020 (11:56 pm)

      Not an option to not go back to school next school year at the latest. Remote learning is purely ineffective and is harming my boys and robbing them of a good education, valuable social interaction and sports as an outlet. SPS needs to get their stuff together.

      • Person December 1, 2020 (5:05 am)

        Agreed. That meeting was so Seattle. People in charge are terrified of making decisions and interest groups will freeze progress. We’ve never considered private school until now.

  • M December 1, 2020 (6:23 am)

    This has been a complete failure for my 2nd grade son. It’s heart breaking to see him fall so behind on his education. 

  • Anne December 1, 2020 (7:20 am)

    What do teachers think? School board , superintendents & parents & students can want to go back-but how do teachers feel-do they feel safe-will whatever protocols put in place be enough to address any fears they may have?Does SPS have the money to  be sure the Operational Changes are equitable-doable in every school in  the district? 

  • Wsres December 1, 2020 (7:53 am)

    I think we need to give kids a pass this year and do the grade over next year. There are some good interactions in online learning, but overall it is a wasted year.

    • Lola2 December 1, 2020 (2:28 pm)

      And if school remains remote learning next fall- do we give our kids a pass for the next year as well if things continue in this same path? No. Giving them a pass for this year should not be an option. There is no telling what next year is going to look like. I work as an RN on the COVID front. It will still be a long while before the vaccine is made readily available to ALL of the general public. 

  • High Point December 1, 2020 (8:11 am)

    My 1st grader is thriving and her teachers are doing an amazing job. I hope SPS moves forward with a plan with the sound advice of science. 

    • Xtrasocks December 1, 2020 (8:52 am)

      My second grader is doing wonderful also. While I am looking forward to sending my child back to school in-person for social reasons I really don’t feel like she is suffering academically. I feel for parents who are having a bad experience though. 

    • neighbor December 1, 2020 (9:13 am)

      I agree. It’s clear some schools are doing better at this than others, so maybe they could do a better job collaborating on early-release Wednesdays to share best practices between schools. We’ve been so impressed with our teachers’ creativity and ability to pivot to a new style of teaching, and I’m grateful we aren’t dealing with the chaos of schools opening-closing-opening-closing again like other areas have tried to do. With vaccines projected to be available to everyone by June, it makes sense to finish this school year remotely and then resume in-person education in the fall.

    • Kram December 1, 2020 (10:22 am)

      That’s great that your kids are doing well but I think a big concern are the many parents who can’t stay home. Single parents who cannot work from home for example. There are also many kids unfortunately that come from very broken or unsafe homes. The parents who can work from home and monitor their kids are going to be fine when this is over. No good answers here. I understand the teacher/safety perspective as well. Many kids however will fall behind, there is no question. The gap widens.

  • Belvidear December 1, 2020 (8:27 am)

    Can’t imagine how the uncertainty affects our wonderful, hardworking teachers. Thank you to all our public school teachers!

    • FixTheBridge December 1, 2020 (10:30 am)

      My garbage man shows up every week, in person, to take away the trash and as we all know Covid can travel from surfaces.  The sanitation worker is the hero.  Kids are suffering everyday to keep teachers safe.  The heroes in education these days are the parents and children who are accommodating the safety of the teachers at great sacrifice to their own education.  Let’s cheer for parents and students for protecting our teachers and hope the teachers thank us all mightily for protecting them.

      • PrekTeacher December 1, 2020 (11:14 am)

        I’m a teacher at a half day preschool.  We have gone virtual.  It takes me about 2 hours of prep for every hour of online time.  I need to come up with activities that will work online, prepare and or purchase materials for kids to take home, photography my story books so the kids can see them, communicate at least once a day with parents by email, keep a class schedule updated daily in google classrooms, and still go to school to gather materials for use.  Besides that, I had to get a new computer because my children needed to be online too, create a “classroom” at home and pay for faster internet so that I can do my job.                                 That’s fir one hour a day.  Imagine if I was teaching 6 hours, with required curriculum, state requirements, and children with IEPs.  Add in language barriers and technology problems or inaccessibility.So yeah, thanks for protecting us, but don’t make the mistake of believing that this is easier for us.  And maybe thank a teacher for continuing to find ways to teach and connect with students.

      • HA December 1, 2020 (11:16 am)

        Direct your ire at the state instead of at teachers, who also are suffering. Let’s not compare pain, please. The state is not collecting data that would help us to make informed decisions about reopening. Legitimizing one person’s pain to accommodate another is not a solution and just perpetuates resentment. We need to know the risks based upon data, which is not being collected nor shared.


        And also, Covid is not transmitted from garbage. It’s airborne.

      • CMT December 1, 2020 (12:11 pm)

        Wow, fixthebridge – what an ignorant comment on so many levels, including but not limited to (1) your glaring misapprehension that keeping schools closed is for the purpose of protecting teachers; and (2) your lack of knowledge that COVID is primarily transmitted in the air and hard surfaces present a much lower risk than originally thought.  Maybe do some basic research before posting something like that.

  • Roberta December 1, 2020 (8:42 am)

    My kid has additional needs.  He’s being allowed, or should I say enabled, to fail. I’m having to stop work to provide what he needs just to get him vaguely near not failing.  All his 504 does is legitimize his non learning.  SPS talk about serving those furthest from educational justice but I would love to see evidence of that.  We’re struggling so much, i dread to think what it would be like for people without the option to stop work. 2 SpEd kids are currently being served with in person services and I am not hearing anything good about remote for kids with additional needs. I totally get the health and safety aspect but there are ways of making it work. It’s seems to be just too tricky for sps to manage. 

    • Anne December 1, 2020 (12:48 pm)

      You say you get the health & safety “aspects”- then say  there are ways of making it work-ok  then – what ways?  Sounds like there are ideas -but not necessarily a consensus in how to go about implementing them. Is it money? Is it that the protocols have to be equitable -assuring that all schools in district have same safety measures in place? What bothers me the most- seems like there is not an ongoing discourse  ( weekly-bi-weekly-monthly?) happening.SPS would be well advised to include teachers in any plans-you know-the ones that will have to actually implement the protocols in their classrooms -hourly/daily-  as well as teaching-if they’re not included-& feel unsafe with what plan is decided upon -I would not for a second blame them for refusing to go back to the classroom. happening-why not ? 

  • M December 1, 2020 (1:20 pm)

    I am a research scientist (including covid-19 studies), and I feel we are absolutely NOT following the data when it comes to opening schools.  Districts have tough choices to make, to be sure, but the data shows that opening K-12, especially elementary, does not impact the case load.  (Colleges are a whole different story).  Districts are likely dragging their feet over fears of lawsuits, while the children continue to suffer for it.  If your child is thriving, great…I’m genuinely happy to hear that.  That is not the case for many.  They will be deadlocked with indecision until the clock runs out and makes the choice for them.  Our kids won’t see a classroom this school year, is my guess.  https://www.npr.org/2020/10/21/925794511/were-the-risks-of-reopening-schools-exaggerated

    • WS Taxpayer December 1, 2020 (2:56 pm)

      Well Said M!  Get our kids in School!  

    • Anne December 1, 2020 (3:38 pm)

      Since SPS have been remote since March-how do we know there won’t be a problem?  As cases increase  in general -especially if they surge from Thanksgiving & Christmas travel – how safe will it be to open schools in January.Kids may not look or be “sick” as they can be asymptomatic & able to spread the virus-especially if they’re among those that have travelled -or from households that don’t follow guidelines. 

      • Person December 1, 2020 (4:03 pm)

        Schools all over the country and world have been open for months. At least one I know of has COVID dashboards to see outbreaks. You will see one or two cases at any given school, but nothing implying massive school-based spread. Every article I’ve read that quotes scientific studies says to open schools.

  • Sick and tired December 1, 2020 (3:00 pm)

    If we open schools will you be following guidelines at home?  Or will you continue to socialize, travel and otherwise undermine the guidelines?  Yes, kids are mostly A-symptomatic but that only means they can be in school unknowingly infecting other children and staff. (True case at our school) You can’t have it both ways.  Until we as a community start paying attention to the recommendations, we will never get through this.  SeaTac airport during Thanksgiving is a prime example.  Stop playing around and get serious.  Then maybe your kids can come back to school.

  • john December 1, 2020 (5:01 pm)

    But like the research scientist who posted stayed, we seem to have enough data globally which indicates that opening up schools is safe and also critical for our kids in a multitude of ways.  We need to follow the science.  Open schools, not bars and bowling alleys.

  • seaweed December 2, 2020 (7:32 am)


  • Laura December 3, 2020 (8:37 am)

    M is correct. Please read The NY Times, WA post and all the multiple article about what experts, including Celine Gounder Biden’s CoVID task force pick is stating about schools should be last to close. The science shows schools much safer then indoor dining and high risk environments. NY metro area has been open all Fall. Much more densely populated. Not only NYC which will now remain in person as levels continue to rise are now in early Dec near 5 percent positivity. Seattle has had much lower rates then King county, 7 percent this past week. Decision making needs to be at city and district level. In Canada schools open with 11 percent positive. WA should not reopen indoor dining and bars before reopening schools. Experts critical of this policy. Schools can be opened safely as long as protocol can be followed according to data of millions of children. 

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