FOLLOWUP: Some Seattle Public Schools students will return by March 1st, board decides

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.

43 Replies to "FOLLOWUP: Some Seattle Public Schools students will return by March 1st, board decides"

  • David December 17, 2020 (8:58 pm)

    Go to and scroll down to the first visible graph (“Positive cases”). Disregard the gray-bar area on the right, which is grossly misleading*.
    Seeing that graph, you may wonder what the holy heck Inslee was thinking to “encourage” schools to start opening when COVID is spreading any slower than the rate of 350/100k (spreading 35X faster the original Phase 2 target). But it gets worse.
    Mouse over the graph, and it’ll tell you the day you’re hovering over. Go to mid-November: That’s the target he set for when it’s supposedly safe.
    There’s NO reason to think Inslee’s grossly-inflated target of 350 will be anything but disastrous, setting off super-spreader events that will connect tens of thousands of families who wouldn’t otherwise interact.
    * – They mark tests on the day the sample was taken, not when the result came out. There are good reasons for doing it that way. But because results are often delayed by days or even a week or more, it constantly gives the false impression that things are rapidly getting better.

    • LY December 17, 2020 (9:55 pm)

      Agree with David. I’m sure Inslee will change his mind once he revisits the trajectory in a few weeks.

      • David December 17, 2020 (10:39 pm)

        I hope so. Thing is… the target he chose (350/100k) corresponds on the graph to a rapidly-increasing trajectory last month. I.e. we’ve already been there done that, and it turned out very badly. But he’s decided it’s safe anyway, so it’s hard to guess what he would consider unsafe.

    • Rational thinking and managed risk December 17, 2020 (10:13 pm)

      It’s because there is plenty of evidence from the widespread openings elsewhere to indicate that schools are not sites in which the virus spreads easily. And there is also ample evidence that keeping children, especially the littlest ones, out of school is doing real harm to them. No one has said go eat inside a restaurant or throw out your mask. Restrictions on those activities continue to make sense. Likewise, these children will be distanced and masked, and by the way, many of them are already attending pods and other group childcare environments. And also, group childcare has been open through it all! With time, we’ve learned more about how the disease spreads and Governor Inslee is making a rational decision to take this step to encourage districts to open, which has been taken elsewhere already with success.

  • TJ December 17, 2020 (8:59 pm)

    You can count on the district, teachers, and union making getting kids back in class way tougher than it should be. There is a battle coming between the union and district, with the union fighting in class teaching as long as possible. Using safety for the kids as a tagline, even though this is being pushed even by Inslee as the science is clear that schools are safe. I predict full day school for all won’t start until the start of next school year. Now is when the mettle of the union will be put to test. If they care about the students like is always claimed, then get into class. Remote learning is failing too many kids, compounded with the mental part of not being in class.

    • School December 18, 2020 (7:19 am)

      The union is representing the needs of the teachers To say the teachers don’t care about the kids is a HUGE slap in the face.  Many teachers are rightfully concerned about the district’s ability to create safe learning environments.  After years of begging for smaller class sizes, how are they to expect that the district suddenly figured out how to maintain a 1:15 ratio?  After MANY years of dealing with mold, asbestos, and other contaminants in schools and hearing there just isn’t money to remediate everything so don’t use that part of the school, how are they supposed to feel like the air quality/air flow improvements are going to be made?  There is absolutely a path to getting kids back to school safely.  We’ve seen it done in other countries.  But here in the good old USA where every voter and school board member has an apoplexy as the suggestion that maybe we should invest more money in schools to make them safer–when there’s NOT a pandemic–the lack of trust that they’ve suddenly found the solutions (now that there’s the most to lose if they haven’t) is real and warranted.

    • Ice December 18, 2020 (7:45 am)

      This specific comment by TJ is just union scapegoating masquerading as pretending to understand the science with a false sense of concern for children. If you actually worked in medicine or had a bad case of Covid you might understand and not jump to such wacky, hasty, politically-loaded conclusions. Unfortunately, to you, this whole thing is a joke and an assault on your freedom because you can’t go camping with your friends.

    • Anne December 18, 2020 (7:57 am)

      Getting teachers ,staff, other employees ,bus drivers,  fully vaccinated BEFORE in person school starts up should be priority #1. 

  • Falcon December 17, 2020 (9:28 pm)

    Data are showing that kids are not super spreaders and open schools with appropriate precautions (ex masks) do not increase community rates. That is why other schools around the country are doing the same and why this decision is in agreement with public health. There is also the not so small consideration of what might be best for children and that is certainly time in the classroom. 

    • Anne December 17, 2020 (10:17 pm)

      What do teachers say? I would think teachers,staff, employees might want to be vaccinated ( 2 shots 21 days apart + time to take affect) before going back to in person teaching. Is that even being considered? With schools being mostly closed- for months – how can data truly show  kids aren’t /won’t be super spreaders? 

      • Falcon December 17, 2020 (10:56 pm)

        The data are from places all over the country where schools are already open. There are teachers in SPS who want schools to open. Their voices may not be heard over their union’s but they certainly exist. 

        • Anne December 17, 2020 (11:34 pm)

          So you are saying there are teachers ready to go back without first getting vaccinated?? I would encourage those voices to speak up- I would pay attention to what they have to say. As to data-“from schools across the country who have opened up” when was this data collected- do you know? From how many schools? COVID cases seem to be spiking now- who knows what things will look like after holiday travel & gatherings. 

    • David December 17, 2020 (10:19 pm)

      “Public health” has shown there’s no problem?
      You might want to check your assumptions there, brother or sister. The rate of spread per capita in the US is 11 times worse than the rest of the world combined. Yes, including the “third world”.
      We’re living in what could be fairly called Typhoid a-Mary-ca, given our refusal to act on what scientists are saying. Most of the rest of the world is absolutely right to ban US travelers except after a mandatory quarantine (or at all).
      I don’t take anyone’s bare assertions about “data” without proof, and I invite you to check mine. Go to and click “US” on the left. Take a look at the rate of spread in the lower right, and you’ll see how fast things are getting worse. (A month ago, the US was “only” five times worse than the rest of the world.)

    • Brian December 17, 2020 (10:30 pm)

      Children are “not superspreaders” because they’re more likely host and spread the virus asymptomatically and, as such, are less likely to be tested.

    • Doctor Mom December 17, 2020 (10:37 pm)

      Completely agree. I am a physician on the frontlines of COVID and a mother of 2 SPS children. I completely support opening schools and keeping them open over bars and restaurants. My colleagues do too.  Other cities, states, and countries are prioritizing children and it is long overdue for SPS to do the same.  My children are privileged and I have made a choice to keep them in public schools but SPS needs to step up.  Schools are essential and children are suffering. Enough of the hyperbole. Evaluate the data, dig deep for your values, and roll up your sleeves.  Healthcare workers and other essential workers have been doing it for months.  Schools can too.

      • West seattle teacher December 18, 2020 (7:39 am)

        I am a teacher.  Not getting the vaccine.  Ready to be in the classroom.  This is damaging our youth let’s get back to class.  

        • WS Special Needs Parent December 21, 2020 (4:18 pm)

          West Seattle Teacher are you saying you’re not getting the vaccine by choice? If so don’t you think that’s selfish and reckless as a teacher? 

      • Ice December 18, 2020 (8:19 am)

        Yes, I agree with you that it is time to evaluate the data that exists and take a good hard look at whether it is time to reopen the schools, but let’s be as intelligent as we can from this and learn from others mistakes. Distance learning is sub-optimal for the majority of the kids, no doubt there. A lot of kids are also missing out on the social aspect of school and many are stuck at home with parents who are not very emotionally healthy. But we need to keep in mind that teachers are going to be extra vulnerable to getting covid because they are working with kids in a hectic environment. Schools simply cannot provide teachers with the sort of protection that hospitals, clinics, grocery stores and other ‘essential workers’ have. I write that as someone who has worked on the hospital floor with covid patients, and spent years working in an ambulatory care settings. The amount of precautions most places take are exceptional. I have heard of some schools taking precautionary measures to prevent the spread, such as putting up large plastic barriers between the students desks to keep children apart when they are in class and maybe that works. However, at the end of the day we have to remember that airborne precautions mean nothing to a classroom of 30 eleven year-olds.

      • Schoolsopen December 18, 2020 (9:16 am)

        This. Every doctor I know and have talked to- the ones that work in the ICUs and are frontline COVID doctors, support schools being open. The fact of the matter is that no matter how much public data there is, and how much science supports it, teachers will continue to block schools opening while saying it’s not safe. I am sorry if you are a teacher, this isn’t against you, but it’s purely political at this point to say you don’t want to go back to school. 

        • Brian December 18, 2020 (2:46 pm)

          Nope. I’m a parent and I am not sending my kids back until widespread vaccinations and immunity can be had. It’s not political it’s the health of my family and the community at large. 

  • LY December 17, 2020 (9:57 pm)

    Hehe yeah? My cousin in Arizona just had to keep both his kids at home from school because their school friends started testing positive for Covid.

  • The King December 17, 2020 (10:12 pm)

    Inslee cited “emerging data” that covid doesn’t spread as much among young children. Isn’t this what the last president was saying all along? So Opposite Day is over now that Biden is president. Wow. 

  • Ajay December 17, 2020 (10:18 pm)

    43 states including some districts in this state have opened schools safely. There is no will displayed by the SEA and the school district to be creative and open schools safely. It’s been ten months and we have no plans from the district whatsoever. Just sitting on their a–es and finger pointing each other. Now that the governor has laid the guidelines, we will see SEA and WEA do their best to not open up schools, playing with kids mental health. We have CDC guidelines and enough research to prove that schools are not spreaders. Open schools now and give the choice to parents. Those who are not comfortable can stay home. 

  • LER December 17, 2020 (10:19 pm)

    It will be interesting to see how the Health department will sign off on this. Air filtration and similar safety measures are not there or up to standard with most buildings SPS operates. Also other safety measures for in class and common areas.  Also safety measures wirh masks – especially special education students who have sensory issues and will not wear masks for long period. Right now, there doesn’t appear to be much of a safety plan from SPS perspective. Am hoping the Educator Union fights hard for the safety of their members. 

  • Falcon December 17, 2020 (10:29 pm)

    The rates for reopening are fluid because they are based on what we learn about the virus. Emerging data are what this decision in based on – a better understanding of how the virus spreads – or doesn’t in the case of children in schools with proper precautions. Anyone who has experience with SPS also knows that it takes them a long lead time to accomplish much of anything so getting started now is an urgent necessity for our children. 

  • Mom of Senior December 18, 2020 (5:23 am)

    All the schools in England have been in session since the beginning (saving the first 2 week shut down)  I haven’t spoken to a parent or a kid that doesn’t want to go back to school.  No one I have talked to says their child is thriving. It IS a huge detriment to the kids academically and MENTALLY! Let them ALL go back if they want. Parents who are apprehensive,  can keep online learning.

  • Concerned Neighbor December 18, 2020 (7:31 am)

    Getting kids back into class at this time is a huge, and possibly tragic, mistake.   Especially with the virus  numbers still rising here.   While the kids may not be at as much a risk, what about the teachers/staff that  must interact?  The kids/parents/teachers are all in a rhythm with remote teaching/learning.  Why not just keep it that way at least through mid-winter break and spring break?  Changing things up, only to have to change them back due to premature risk?  All because of a little inconvenience?  Doesn’t make any sense at all.   Better safe, than sorry.

  • Anne December 18, 2020 (8:00 am)

    You talk about the kids-I agree they need to get back to school ASAP, but those that  teach & interact with them in any way -should be able to get fully vaccinated before that happens.  

  • Anna December 18, 2020 (8:15 am)

    Private schools and preschools here have been open for a while now. There must be data from them? Anecdotally, I haven’t heard of any super-spreader events in any of the the preschools that are open, but I haven’t specifically researched this either.

    • Anne December 18, 2020 (9:09 am)

      Some of the private schools here in WS have much  smaller enrollments-than public schools &  with alternate scheduling are able to achieve  the  crucial social distancing necessary. 

  • Bugsy December 18, 2020 (9:05 am)

    Considerable data show that schools are NOT areas of community transmission.We can bring kids back to schol safely, with precautions. I am glad pk – 1 will be going back in March, but that is NOT enough.Highline is brining k-5 back in January.  SPS is way behind on this & it’s not ok.  Our kids are suffering in many ways. The educational gap between affluent and low-income kids is growing. Other districts have older teachers and old buildings. We need to figure this out, SPS.  (There will be an option for kids to stay home if their parents want them to & teachers with medical conditions can get exemptions).

    • Anne December 18, 2020 (10:59 am)

      What about teacher safety? You don’t address that-other than to say teachers with medical conditions can get exemptions-one doesn’t need to have a medical condition to get COVID & possibly pass to someone else. Vaccinate all SPS employees that want it -then get kids back in person.

  • Kindergarten parent December 18, 2020 (9:25 am)

    These are CRITICAL years for our young children and they need their teachers and their classmates, badly. Schools are an essential service, and since I’ve been a parent for 6 years, it is disappointing but not surprising that they are not viewed as such by all. My kindergartner is doing well in remote learning and I have been blown away by how well it’s going in general – I really did not expect it. His teachers are amazing. However, these kids deserve our very best efforts and version of education and remote learning is inherently less equitable than in-person schooling. I’d love to see our city/state/country get priorities in this pandemic straight and pull out all the stops for the sake of these kids. All the stops. I’m pleased to see the governor’s office offering data-driven recommendations and funds to make this finally happen safely. 

  • ZoomFatigue December 18, 2020 (11:27 am)

    Looks like a lot of candidates for future school board members on this comment thread. 🤷🏻‍♂️

  • Jon Wright December 18, 2020 (3:41 pm)

    I feel like a lot of folks are grasping for that perfect solution. There is no such thing in this case. All the choices are bad. My kids are doing online school at home. They don’t like. I don’t like it. I’m trying to work and keep kids on track simultaneously. I can’t do it. But in the end, we’re alive and healthy and everything else pales compared to that.

  • Canton December 18, 2020 (10:30 pm)

    Why can’t the teachers that feel confident with their individual health, start classrooms in person, with families and students that feel the same. The teachers that are reluctant, continue with online teaching, students and families that are reluctant as well?

  • Char December 28, 2020 (7:59 pm)

    So excited that WSB is covering school openings -and doing a good job!  I have come to the right place!1.  Why did the district go from saying they would open K-2 to changing it to K-1? Was that action/pushback from the board?2. Wow, you even went to that mind numbing work session. Amazing the long amount of time SPS needs to gear up to open – they should be ready to go, but they are not. Instead they need weeks to perform ‘surveys’3. Teachers don’t trust the district to get safety right – good thinking teachers. What the district needs is an oversight board consisting of public health experts. they have no such board.4. Which leads to this question: Where is SPS getting its public health advice? This is NOT transparent. Many districts nationwide have nimble committees consisting of public health experts. These experts assess local situation: covid load, school resources, etc. and make recommendations that are TRANSPARENT. None of this is going on. Instead, we have school board members operating on conservative gut instinct, instead of on data that is being interpreted through a public health lens with transparency. This is the real problem – people without training can debate about risk, and without transparent guidance from experts, you get ill-informed arguments and outcomes. 5. The need for transparent, local advice is more urgent as this fast-changing pandemic will have more surprises for us.  How will the new covid virus variant affect school openings, if it appears in our community? If teachers are front of the line for vaccinations, how will this affect transmission? Can we open if all teachers are vaccinated but community transmission is high?  I don’t know the answer and neither does the school board – we need transparent advice. 6. Other things to consider:  SPS will now open k-1 in march regardless of community transmission rates, they say. then, what is the barrier to opening now? it is logistics.  why are these logistics not in place NOW, since they have had since March 2020 to prepare?  If opening later grades is a matter of resources, can SPS delineate what resources are needed and make a specific request to the state – have they even done that? can they legally tap levy resources? Can they ask the city? Has any of this been done?7.  thank you WSB for having some of the best coverage of our schools, please keep it up

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