FOLLOWUP: School board delays reopening vote, after governor announces new recommendations

The Seattle Public Schools board decided tonight to wait until a special meeting tomorrow to vote on its proposed reopening plan, so board members and staff could review what the governor announced this afternoon. Gov. Inslee said lessons learned elsewhere suggest students and staffers could return to in-person learning safely, sooner – all students, if cases are below 50 per 100,000 population, phased in (starting with the youngest students) if cases are between that point and 350 per 100,000.

(For reference, King County is currently at 420 cases per 100,000.) As the governor pointed out, while he has the authority to close schools, he does not have the authority to order them to reopen, so these are recommendations, not requirements. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal, also participating in the briefing, urged districts and their labor organizations to sit down ASAP and start talking about reopening plans. Read more about today’s announcement here; see the briefing video here.

Back to Seattle Public Schools – what they’re considering, unless there’s a major change before tomorrow’s vote, is a plan to bring back preK through first graders, plus some special-education students, starting March 1st. The board was told at tonight’s meeting that the plan would affect about 11,000 students, roughly one-fifth of the current enrollment. The safety plan enabling that would cost $18 million, the board was told. Parents who don’t want to send their children back would have the option of staying with online learning; they would survey parents of potential returnees in January and February to find out their plans. Tomorrow’s meeting is at 4 pm; find the agenda here.

22 Replies to "FOLLOWUP: School board delays reopening vote, after governor announces new recommendations"

  • Brian December 16, 2020 (8:12 pm)

    I’m just blindly asking here because this is all so stupid but is there an upper threshold to that 350/100k figure? Is it just anything over 350/100k?    

  • David December 16, 2020 (9:50 pm)

    The “350” target gets better. The original target health officials wanted was 10/100k for phase 2. As cases slowly crept down but not fast enough, he increased it to 25. King County never even hit that inflated target – when we got close but it was starting to rise again, he put us in phase 2 anyway.
    Sports analogy: Imagine a football referee changes the rules so that if his favorite team can move the ball past their own 40, it’ll be a touchdown. Then with 4th and 2 on the 38, he calls it a touchdown anyway.
    Now it appears he’s just pulling figures out of his upper sigmoid colon. Currently, COVID is spreading well over 20x as fast in King County as it was when he put us in phase 2, and over 50x as fast as the original target. So are we backing down to phase 1 until the spread stops speeding up exponentially? Heck no, let’s encourage schools to start opening if it’s “only” spreading 35x as fast as the original target.
    So, yeah… apparently his donors who want to reopen ASAP, will score if they can move the ball past their own 3-yard-line.

    • David December 16, 2020 (10:07 pm)

      Correction: Error in my math, WSB is right that currently COVID is spreading 42x as fast as the original phase 2 target.
      (Which actually makes more sense, given that when Inslee bumped it up to 25 it was in the low 30’s – i.e. almost there already, like now.)

    • MK December 17, 2020 (1:00 am)

      So what’s your solution, David? Lockdown and house arrest for everyone? Indefinitely? Or just until 75% of the state has been vaccinated? Please do tell the path that we should all follow according to your infinite wisdom. The 10/100k and 25/100k thresholds were always pie-in-the-sky and completely unrealistic scenarios, so you have to make adjustments because the path that you’re currently on would bring worse societal outcomes. There are a lot of kids that do not do well with remote instruction. Should we just shrug our shoulders and let them all fail? And what on earth are you talking about donors? We’re talking about allowing young children who need it to receive in-person education again … a few months from now.

      • Mightymo December 17, 2020 (6:10 am)

        Should we just shrug our shoulders and let the kids, their teachers, and their families die? (Except those who are able to get the vaccine?)My kids are not thriving with remote learning, but no one in their classes has died and their teachers are healthy, so I see that as a plus.

      • Bubbasaurus December 17, 2020 (8:19 am)

        I thought it was all about the science and the data. It’s 6x worse now then it was at the start of the school year. The last time they changed category numbers back in October, under 25/100k was low, between 25 and 75 was medium and over 75 was high. What changed? I thought it was all about not killing grandma?

      • Brian December 17, 2020 (9:20 am)


        • David December 17, 2020 (4:24 pm)

          I wholeheartedly sympathize, but a general boycott of the mega-corporations would be far more likely to get attention and then results.
          No one can afford to be fired for striking, and there’s zero chance the Department of Labor would protect them from it. But how is Amazon going to punish people for refusing to buy from them?
          If the only thing TPTB in America care about is profit, let’s speak to them in their own language.

          • Brian December 17, 2020 (6:03 pm)

            Good luck “avoiding amazon” when their servers provide the data for the majority of the websites you use. You going to boycott Netflix too? they use AWS for a lot of their infrastructure.

            Boycotts are a relic of the 20th century. Work stoppages and direct action are where it’s at. 

          • David December 17, 2020 (7:34 pm)

            I’ve actually been boycotting Amazon for over a decade, myself – their business practices back then were already giving me the creeps. I understand that for a lot of people it’s impractical or even impossible to avoid them, but I would be surprised if that’s true for the large majority of people (vs inconvenient and/or more expensive).
            For most people, the choices are:  “Do nothing as more people die every day than died on 9/11″, “Do something inconvenient and/or more expensive”, and “Do something that at most businesses will just get you fired”.
            The only way the last one is likely to work is if EVERYONE joins in. But not only is it not happening in the US except weakly and sporadically, historically that hasn’t happened any time people have a lot to lose and no reassurance that they won’t be the only one out on a limb.

      • David December 17, 2020 (4:21 pm)

        They weren’t “pie in the sky” – they were WORKING.  And if the state had given emergency economic assistance to those who had no choice but to work in jobs that aren’t truly essential, today we might look like countries that did and are now basically COVID-free. Look it up if you don’t believe me, they’re back to holding mass concerts in many parts of Asia.Since Inslee gave up on even pretending to care, the curve first rose and then skyrocketed upward. Do you understand that “it’s now spreading 20x as fast” is not a good thing, and that initiating super-spreader events in schools (connecting tens of thousands of families who don’t otherwise interact) is FAR worse?

        • David December 17, 2020 (7:43 pm)

          (addendum in further response to MK, specifically “what on earth are you talking about donors?”)
          I’m going to take a guess that you’d furiously object to me asserting that Inslee’s top priority is “Whatever the people who give me money want”. If that’s the case, good luck maintaining that belief. You’ll probably be happier that way, and nothing I can say will change it.

    • Elton December 17, 2020 (10:10 am)

      Are you saying that you’d rather the governor stick with a flawed strategy? There’s no playbook for handling a pandemic at this scale in our state. I personally am really glad that we’re learning and making updates as appropriate. Research is being done on COVID spread in school districts that had re-opened this year and the early results were encouraging in terms of the school re-openings not causing an uptick in spreads (we don’t have enough time/samples, I imagine, to have a definitive answer). I think it made more sense that they took a conservative tact back in the spring where we knew almost nothing and are now laxing it more that we know more, not sure why you see it as preferable to be stubborn than to evolve the strategy.All that being said: I, too, am surprised that there’s no phase in which we’d turn off in-person learning – that seems really odd to me. While I think the guidance should evolve as our knowledge increases, I personally don’t know that this particular guidance is correct (I really don’t, that’s not a euphemism).

      • David December 17, 2020 (7:52 pm)

        Even sticking with a flawed strategy (“Do nothing and pretend not to notice that the rate of spread is increasing exponentially”) is better than doubling down. And make no mistake, Inslee’s latest strategy of pushing for super-spreader events at schools – which will connect tens of thousands of families that otherwise wouldn’t come in contact – would be doubling down.
        A cynical person might even think it’s based on “Let’s forget about flattening the curve, let’s throw it completely out of control and get it over with quickly”. The trouble is, doing that will cause many times more people to die (once healthcare systems break down).

        • Elton December 17, 2020 (10:28 pm)

          I certainly want schools to open only when it’s safe to do so, I just hope that we use data that we learn from other school districts in the decision making process.

  • Anne December 17, 2020 (7:38 am)

    I find this announcement by the Governor confusing-with cases going up-he wants to start school up again (for some grades) weeks after Christmas -where traveling & gatherings will no doubt happen. What do teachers say-will they have had opportunity to be vaccinated ( heard that similar to flu shot, you’re not not protected immediately-it will take about 10 days for that to happen) -if taking Phizer vaccine-will they have had the 2 shots 21 days apart? Yes-MANY kids don’t learn well remotely-it’s heartbreaking , but kids can have COVID -not be sick-but can give it to others-who can get sick. I saw an interview with a teacher on the news last night- she was upset that she  & other teachers couldn’t be back in the classroom with their students, but her last sentence got me-“ at least we’re alive”. I believe that to safely get kids back in school-teachers must be able to get vaccinated, if Phizer-then 21 days apart. If the Governor is looking at January/February dates-he’d better get started on that. 

  • High Point December 17, 2020 (10:25 am)

    Two more days until the district has two weeks off without instruction. If Jan 4th comes without a clear comprehensive plan that includes paid training for teachers, then the district is incompetent. Their inability to put together a plan is a shame. 

  • Rick December 17, 2020 (12:25 pm)

    Just one big LOL! (Lack Of Leadership!)

  • Brian December 17, 2020 (12:40 pm)

    Meanwhile, at the capitol building…

    • WSB December 17, 2020 (12:50 pm)

      Saw that, hoping to hear more at his 2:30 pm media briefing, though its main topic is supposed to be a budget announcement. Not finding other mentions so far. KING’s story has a Pfizer statement saying they’re not having production problems, so …

      (added) Here’s the Pfizer statement

    • David December 17, 2020 (4:55 pm)

      I’m NOT an anti-vaxxer by any stretch of the imagination. I think it’s deeply misguided to keep kids from being protected by well-understood techniques with several decades of understanding behind them, unless they’re in one of the small subgroups for whom it’s risky.
      But I also think it’s deeply misguided to expose hundreds of millions to a completely new and barely-understood technique (using mRNA to train the immune system to kill our own cells), with a great deal of potential for things to go badly wrong (esp. autoimmune reactions), because we’re desperate enough to ignore the obvious profit motives of those pushing it.
      Time will tell whether mRNA vaccination will be the next thalidomide. As badly as I want to be able to protect people by not becoming a spreader, count me out for the Pfizer vaccine – and count me in for waiting on one of the non mRNA vaccines coming up.

      • Elton December 17, 2020 (10:36 pm)

        We’re sort of between a rock and a hard place with the current outbreak, so I think the profiteering angle is a bit cynical. Sure, these companies have something to gain, but if their vaccines cut the rate of spread even in half, that would save so many lives that it’s worth the risk. And they’ve gone through clinical trials and been through FDA review – if they were being reckless it would’ve been discovered by now.That being said, I think by the time these vaccines are generally available we’ll know a lot more about the effects. mRNA vaccines aren’t new, they’re just not given en masse typically – I believe used more in cancer patients so they’ve been studied quite a bit. Though i would agree that anyone with a history of autoimmune should not get vaccinated until one of the alternatives are available. I’m hopeful (perhaps unreasonably optimistic) that by the time that’s available enough people will have had the mRNA vaccines who are able to take such a vaccine that there will be good availability of it.

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