It wasn’t exactly an enthusiastic vote when Seattle Public Schools board members decided tonight to approve a plan that is likely to send about a fifth of the district’s students back into classrooms by March 1st. Board members acknowledged a lot of trepidation among both families and staff. But they also acknowledged that the district should be planning on how to return more, if COVID-19 case levels should drop dramatically. Here’s how the district’s post-meeting announcement describes what’s been decided:
… The plan, first recommended to the board by Superintendent Denise Juneau and staff at a Dec. 5, 2020 board retreat, will initially resume in-person instruction for Preschool through 1st grade students and students enrolled in moderate to intensive special education service pathways (Focus, Moderate/Intensive, Social Emotional Learning, Distinct, Medically Fragile, Bridges, Preschool (Developmental/Seattle Pre-School Program), and continue serving individual students who have had an IEP Team determine in-person services for Resource and Access service pathways. …
Some highlights of Resolution No. 2020/21-4.1:
• Up to five days per week;
• Beginning on March 1, 2021 for PreK-1 and begin bringing back students enrolled in moderate to intensive service pathways before or on March 1;
• Remote learning will continue to be offered for PreK-1 and Special Education families who opt to not return to in-person instruction;
• Continue the remote learning model, until further notice, for all other students not listed above.
Preparation for bringing back additional students:
• SPS staff will begin configuring 75 elementary and K-8 schools to support a 1:15 teacher-student ratio;
• Expansion of Special Education services in secondary schools;
• Bargaining new working conditions with the Seattle Education Association;
• Hiring additional bus drivers and custodial staff;
• Resumption of in-person nutrition services as necessary.
SPS will be conducting, in early January, a survey of families to enroll students for the in-person model and determine how many will opt to continue with remote learning.
As we reported Wednesday, the board was supposed to vote last night but was “blindsided” – as West Seattle/South Park board rep Leslie Harris put it – by Gov. Inslee‘s announcement hours earlier of new recommendations for what COVID-19 levels were acceptable for returning students and staff to in-person education. So they took an extra day for staff and board to review what the governor said. Among other things, they noted, the governor’s new policy changes the acceptable level of cases but doesn’t change what kind of distancing and other safety precautions they need to take, and accommodating all students that way – including transportation – would be prohibitively expensive. Read more about the new plan, including some FAQ, on the district website.