When will thousands of students return to Seattle Public Schools? No sooner than March 8, district says

Seattle Public Schools promised an update today on the status of returning thousands of students to in-person learning next month. Here’s the promised update:

On December 17, the SPS School Board directed staff to begin implementing plans for a phased increase of in-person instruction for students enrolled in Special Education Intensive Service Pathways beginning second semester and no later than March 1 and for preschool, kindergarten, and first-grade students on March 1.

Central office staff have been preparing for many months. Health and safety protocols have been implemented, Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) is in place, and the district has prepared for student transportation and meals.

An increase of in-person instruction also requires we negotiate new working conditions with Seattle Education Association. Unfortunately, we don’t yet have an agreement with SEA. To begin phasing in students on March 1, we needed an agreement by Monday, February 22. Without an agreement, the in-person return date has been delayed until at least March 8.

Staff continue to prioritize the phased return of students in Special Education Intensive Service Pathways first, followed by students in PreK-1 grade.

A special Board Meeting will be held on February 25 from 4-5:30 p.m. to discuss next steps and take action on the OSPI required Washington School’s 2020-21 Reopening Progress Report Template. Families and staff are encouraged to watch or listen to the board work session. (See the agenda here.) The meeting will be broadcast on television or can be viewed on the SPS TV YouTube channel. To listen by phone, dial 206-800-4125 and use Conference ID 931 417 102#.

District staff are committed to continuing negotiations in good faith. SPS has requested mediation support from the Public Employment Relations Commission to help facilitate a timely resolution. PERC is impartial and will help the district and the union explore solutions that lead to a mutual agreement. At this time, Seattle Education Association has declined mediation services.

You can review the most current bargaining update, the district’s proposal to SEA, including a racial equity analysis, on the Bargaining webpage.

The union’s updates, meantime, are here. More recent than those posts is this video update from bargaining-team members. (added) SEA also has just responded to the SPS statement with a Twitter thread, saying in part, “The District’s inability to implement needed health and safety protocols is delaying return to in-person learning.”

63 Replies to "When will thousands of students return to Seattle Public Schools? No sooner than March 8, district says"

  • JTM February 22, 2021 (2:16 pm)

    SPS and SEA’s collective failure to put students first is a both a joke and travesty. At this point the negotiation focus needs to turn to fall in-person as this year is a wash. 

    • Anne February 22, 2021 (3:23 pm)

      Failure to put students first—first at the expense of teachers health????  We’re always hearing how critical teachers are-& I agree- -so how about treating them like they are critical? Let them get vaccinated-

    • wsparent February 22, 2021 (3:24 pm)

      Which would you put first: someone else’s kids or your own health? It is a job for teachers. At the Elementary level kids would have a more difficult time keeping their mask on all day and staying 6ft from each other.  Many of the district’s buildings are really old and may not be conducive to airflow. I’d like to know how many of the SPS buildings have passed inspections for proper airflow with kids in the classrooms. I don’t blame them.  I can wait until teachers are vaccinated. I don’t plan on sending my kids back into schools until teachers are vaccinated. The news always says it is only an issue with the teacher’s union, but I wonder how negotiations are going with their custodian’s union, bus driver’s and maintenance unions too?

    • High Point February 22, 2021 (3:29 pm)

      It’s not SEA’s job to put students first. It’s their job to protect
      teachers and fight for teacher rights and conditions. These past 11
      months have been a failure of SPS singularly. To blame teachers seems
      like a cheap shot.

      • Jim February 22, 2021 (4:38 pm)

        You said it! SEA is a teacher’s union and there job is to protect teacher’s rights and it is about time they do it! 

    • skeeter February 22, 2021 (3:30 pm)

      JTM – I agree it’s a big failure.  But I don’t agree we should focus on the fall.   I guarantee it will take MONTHS to phase in the return to school buildings.  It’s critical that we start that process soon instead of kicking it down to September 2021.  Because if we kick the process to September 2021 then that means that maybe K-1 will return in September 2021.  Then maybe grade 2-3 by Jan 2022.  Then maybe grades 4-5 by April 2022.   The sooner the process starts the sooner we can more fully implement safety protocols and get our kids back in the classroom.   

      • JTM February 22, 2021 (3:37 pm)

        Yes I mean start the process NOW for fall. It should have started months ago honestly. Fall should be the focus of current negotiations.

  • Anne February 22, 2021 (2:43 pm)

    With a vaccine for children possibly months away & new variants out there -vaccinations for Teachers & SPS employees -should be paramount before in-person classes start.  Should other essential workers  -grocery,daycare, transit -be able to get vaccinated-yes -but returning kids to in -person class is what most are clamoring for-so get teachers protected. 

    • Mel February 22, 2021 (3:17 pm)

      I don’t disagree and think teachers should be vaccinated but to say they should get it before other groups feels wrong to me. Daycare teachers have been working with kids directly since day 1. They’re also working with kids too young to wear masks or have any self awareness about hand washing and basic hygiene. I think there are many groups equally deserving of the vaccine. And let’s not forget, people 65+ are still having a hard time getting access to it.

      • flimflam February 22, 2021 (4:01 pm)

        yup. also, grocery workers have been in direct, close contact with hundreds of different people every day at work. Even further, restaurant workers are working near maskless diners everyday at their jobs….

      • Kim February 22, 2021 (4:44 pm)

        Many teachers work with students who have behavioral issues and these students might have issues wearing a mask all day when required to do so and let’s not forget about special education teachers who work with medical fragile students who might be unable to wear a mask due to medical issues or teachers who have to deal with students who just refuse to follow directions to have mask on when required and to leave desk where they are.  

      • WS mom February 22, 2021 (5:34 pm)

        Agree completely Mel. Agree that teachers need vaccinations, as do many groups including daycare workers, grocery store workers, bus drivers, sanitation workers. With safety precautions in place that we know from months of experience work well, return to school can be safe for everyone. Our local and national health professionals recommend returning young kids to school in person. Daycare workers are in contact with these same kids.  

  • TJ February 22, 2021 (3:17 pm)

    Kids need to be in school asap. Plain and simple. Teachers need to be moved up to get vaccinated, then all grades in classes right away. No more excuses by the SEA after that. Kids are the least affected physically by Covid, but are paying the most by the inability of the adults to come to an agreement. I have no faith in the process here, and this city will not know how to get back in the classroom without a long drawn out phased/hybrid approach. If they keep looking for reasons to slow this down, they will gind them. At this point I am worried about high school kids not starting school full time in person next fall which would be criminal. 

    • ttt February 23, 2021 (7:40 am)

      High school kids will be the first kids to be vaccinated since the vaccine is approved for 16 and older. 

  • Pessoa February 22, 2021 (4:01 pm)

    Catholic schools have been re-opened for some time and as far as I know, with no problems.  Why not examine what they’ve apparently done right, and if the SPS  can replicate the same conditions and safety protocols, what’s holding back the SEA?  

    • WD February 25, 2021 (10:18 am)

      Because Catholic schools are smaller, tend to have access to more parent resources, have school cultures that align with adhering to group initiatives, and are typically smaller schools in size, so logistically easier to deal with. In short, its apples and oranges.

  • MW February 22, 2021 (4:14 pm)

    I feel nervous even wading into this discussion and recognize it is a complex many faceted issue. I teach in a neighboring district and we have been back in person since early January. I personally believe that if private schools and many neighboring districts can bring students back so can SPS. I was directly involved in our reopening discussions: Union/district and with a problem solving and collaborative spirit it can be done. We have opportunities for teachers to teach online, students to stay online, etc depending on their comfort level safety wise. I’m hoping not to be attacked for my perspective and can appreciate differing opinions. Just thought I would share. 

    • Seattle Teacher February 22, 2021 (4:32 pm)

      agree! I am a teacher and would have gone back long ago without the vaccine.  Enrollment at my school is down by more than 50%.   It can be done.  Private schools have been in session and many other districts across the nation.  Some teachers put the kids first and are willing to go back NOW!

      • Mj February 22, 2021 (5:18 pm)

        Thank you!

      • The King February 22, 2021 (6:20 pm)

        It seems you may get your with your begin teaching in class as the new guy in the White House is saying if you don’t have kids in classrooms you’ll miss out on the federal covid money to be given to schools. Which is why the sudden push to get them all back has started. Money. 

      • JTM February 22, 2021 (8:08 pm)

        Thank you!! So well said.

      • Kim February 24, 2021 (9:10 am)

        That’s fine you said you would go back to work a long time ago, my guess is that you are a rather young teacher and you are not old and have underlying health issues that some of your counterparts and don’t understand the history of the SEA inability to follow through in being able to help teachers with issues that they might have in various past years. 

    • Teacher February 22, 2021 (5:00 pm)

      Same! I’ve been in person since October and so far so good. The kids are really good about wearing masks, washing, and new rules. We’ve been healthier this year. We have an old building and keep windows open plus air purifiers. I know SPS is way bigger and more complicated, but it can be done. All of us teachers at my school were nervous to go back, but so far so good.

      • LocalMom February 22, 2021 (6:37 pm)

        Thank you MW, Seattle Teacher, Teacher for posting your thoughts. I really can’t explain how positive your comments feel as a mom who feels relatively powerless in this situation. 

      • Marianne February 22, 2021 (6:47 pm)

        The windows in my classroom don’t open.

      • Local Teacher February 23, 2021 (7:45 am)

        One window is the only thing that provides air flow in my special ed office and it doesn’t open in the rainy months because the old wood swells with moisture. I work in a west seattle school. 

      • Teacher February 23, 2021 (10:59 pm)

        Do you have to change your students? Do you have to take them to the bathroom and help them clean up? Do you physically feed your students? Do you have students that bite, lick, or jump/hug on you? Do you have students that lick all kinds of objects? Do you have students who can not sit in a chair or stay in one place for more than 15 minutes? Do  you have students who have heart defects, compromised lungs, diabetes, or other at risk pre-existing conditions? Do you  have students that need hand over hand help? Do you have students that have sensory issues and can’t wear masks or shields?SPS isn’t just trying to send back k-1 in person, they are also trying to send back students that receive intensive services from k-12 (and transition program 18-21).

      • WD February 25, 2021 (10:29 am)

        You said SPS is bigger and more complicated. Seems that you just explained why comparing SPS handling of this to private schools a small districts is ridiculous.

    • WS resident February 22, 2021 (11:08 pm)

      I’m a teacher as well at a local private school and we’ve been back since September.  I have 6 year olds in my classroom who have been wearing masks all day long with no issues at all.  I know some changes would need to be made but they need to start getting these public school kids back in person as well.  Obviously I’d love to have teachers vaccinated but unfortunately our state isn’t prioritizing them like some other states are.  

    • Pessoa February 23, 2021 (11:42 am)

      No one should be terrified to express their opinion, no matter how unpopular.  Ever.  We’re all  adults now and part of leaving adolescence behind is appreciating a variety of opinions, and being unafraid to add one’s own opinions to that diversity.   

    • Jessica February 23, 2021 (10:53 pm)

      SEA is asking that remote teaching and remote learning remain as options for teachers, instructional aides, and students. 

  • Bryan February 22, 2021 (5:31 pm)

    Here’s an idea: 5th, 8th, and 12th graders go back first so they can have all of their end-of-year milestones

  • M February 22, 2021 (5:49 pm)

    Do we have any details at all on what specifics they can’t agree on? If the SEA is demanding to wait until they are vaccinated, that seems quite unfair, as no other job sector has had the privilege nor power to do that.

    • Shufflerunner February 22, 2021 (8:27 pm)

      The vast majority of office and tech jobs in the area are not planning to go back until vaccinated if they go back at all. Many parents will continue to work from home after students go back. 

      • M February 23, 2021 (11:19 am)

        I’m talking about any other job that needs to be in person to do their job effectively.  Healthcare workers, food processing plant workers, grocers, etc etc.  Can you imagine if any of them had refused to work in person until they were vaccinated?  I’m an essential worker and showed up to my job,  handling covid positive samples near daily without being vaccinated.  You take the proper precautions and you do your job for the benefit of society.  Meanwhile my young child sits at home, virtually alone all day (partner has a demanding wfh job) figuring out “school” on his own.  It’s heartbreaking.  It all is.  There’s no winning, but we can certainly do better.

    • Teacher February 23, 2021 (10:51 pm)

      SEA is not demanding that teachers get vaccinated prior to going back. However, I hope that you realize that many students that are in intensive services are medically at risk and parents are opting to stay remote and will not send their child back until teachers and all staff are vaccinated since at this time under 18 can not get vaccinated. 

  • Admiral February 22, 2021 (6:12 pm)

    A few thoughts/nuggets to consider:

    1. The President and his administration have claimed repeatedly they will “follow the science”. The CDC released guidelines based not just on US data but also European data showing there is no evidence school reopenings contribute to community spread.

    2.  Emergency room visits related to mental health are up 24% among children 5-11 years old and 31% among children 12-18 years old. Anyone who thinks the only health debate about school reopenings is around Covid is sadly mistaken.

    3. The San Francisco teachers union (which is being sued by the city) had the audacity to claim that virtual learning is just as effective as in person. Talk about a slap in the face to their members, who are hard working teachers. So an 8 year old sitting in front of a screen for 8 hours straight being babysat by parents who are also trying to work is just as effective as the wonderful job teachers do in the classroom? If that’s the case, let’s sell all the land and school buildings and buy every kid in the district a laptop. There, now we have money to fix the bridge! At least I haven’t seen the Seattle teachers union claim something so absurd.

    4. 2020 has been a year of great social awakening as to the many structural inequities that exist in our society. Why is no one talking about the fact that school reopenings have caused poor children, many of whom are minorities, to fall even further behind? We are creating more structural inequities with continued closures. These children are less likely to have strong internet access, less likely to have parents who are working remotely and ensuring they stay online, and are more likely to depend on schools for food. Now, they can still get that food, but that takes the parents having time to do that – an 8 year old isn’t going to know to do that or how to prepare it, etc.

    Lastly, none of this should be political. It’s incredible that being in favor of kids being in school is seen as not taking Covid seriously. None of my statements are in any way political – we need to just follow the latest public health guidance and keep in mind that kids are suffering – especially poor kids. 

    • Morgan February 22, 2021 (7:14 pm)

      Yes!!! 

    • false equivalency February 22, 2021 (7:19 pm)

      We may disagree on a number of things @Admiral, but I appreciate your concern for kids, and especially for kids with less resources.

      And this has reminded me of a concern I’ve had during this pandemic…How are foster kids doing? How has their already difficult world been impacted? Are they receiving the care and resources they need?

      Are there any local foster care organizations that the community can help support? I’d be interested in a blog post on this issue of concern. Thanks for considering.

    • flimflam February 22, 2021 (7:51 pm)

      well, if virtual learning works just as well i suppose that clears the salaries of several  teachers from the taxpayers budget…

    • Waiting for my$4 pay increase February 22, 2021 (8:00 pm)

      Agreed Admiral.

    • Parent of SPS kids February 22, 2021 (9:21 pm)

      Thanks for these comments – you summarized the key arguments well. I’m beyond frustrated with the teachers union and their latest proposal that would allow working remotely for 1) teachers that have children home because their schools are closed (this one is just mind boggling) and 2) teachers that want to be vaccinated but it’s not their turn yet. Meanwhile, one adult in our household had to quit their job to care for our children and the other has to go into her workplace to keep her job. Why are teachers immune from these decisions that the rest of us have had to make? Unfortunately because it’s publicly funded and there’s a powerful union. It would be one thing if online school was sufficient, but I can assure you that the average ~2 hours of live instruction a day is not. And to be clear, all we’re talking about right now is roughly 50% of K-1 TWO DAYS A WEEK. What a joke. 

    • cewotig February 22, 2021 (11:07 pm)

      @Admiral, I want to push back a bit on point #4, because I think you are assuming that you are speaking on behalf of “minority” children and families, when I think those families should have the choice to decide what is best for their children based on their personal situations. According to the SPS survey that WSB reported on last week, the *only* racial/ethnic group that are choosing to send students back to school in-person are White families (at 56%).  Every other group is below 50%.  So despite your assumptions that “poor kids are suffering”, more BIPOC families have actually opted for remote learning vs. in-person. Note that my point isn’t about opening schools vs. keeping them remote.  But I would ask that you please do not try to speak on behalf of BIPOC families with a savior mentality  that boils down to “let’s open schools because it is better for poor/minority children” because many of those families are choosing to keep their students remote.

      • BrewSty February 23, 2021 (4:34 pm)

        Our school did a school wide survey and the results were the exact opposite of what you say.   Interesting. 

    • BrewSty February 23, 2021 (4:32 pm)

      Great points, Admiral.  I am a teacher and am embarrassed by our union.  I don’t have to be vaccinated to go back to the classroom.  My pass rate is pretty awful for my classes and I have many seniors.  A lot of families have left the public school I teach for and sent their kids to private.  How is this equity?  This whole school closed and Covid is just tanking the low income/minorities/POC while the privileged white go to private schools or online works just fine in their comfortable homes and personal laptops.  

    • WD February 25, 2021 (10:39 am)

      You forgot one. Over 500,000 Americans have died in one year from Covid.

  • false equivelancy February 22, 2021 (6:58 pm)

    In response to @flimflams comment

    Comparing grocery stores and clerks with schools and teachers is a false equivalency.

    Grocery stores are essential for day to day survival. We need access to food and toilet paper. There is no such thing as distance groceries and tp. 

    And before you even try to argue this… no, it would not be possible for everyone to order groceries via Amazon, and even if it was, many workers working together would be needed to fulfill those orders, so there would still be risks for essential workers.

    It is not a matter of survival for kids to be immediately back in school. People are losing their minds because their way of life has been disrupted and feels out of their control. 

    Some parents who are experiencing overwhelm and stress and who may be underresourced are desperate for their kids to be babysat by schools again.  

    It’s understandable parents and kids are stressed, but forcing schools to reopen, at this crazy time, endangering the health of teachers, isn’t the right answer. 

    Finding ways to help support families cope and get through this time better, along with continuing mitigation strategies and vaccinations until we are in a much better place, is the way.

    Imagine if parents dedicated themselves to learning healthy stress management and coping skills and then taught that to their kids during this time. Parents, you have valuable things to teach your kids too!

    • Canton February 22, 2021 (10:02 pm)

      Be careful with the “babysit” thing. It got a CA school board to resign, when the hot mic got some too honest comments. 

    • Sarah February 23, 2021 (4:04 pm)

      Just one quick question, and it is a genuine one, are you a parent of school aged kids  in SPS currently at home?  

  • WS Mom February 22, 2021 (9:01 pm)

    Our school has been back since October and we have had zero cases. All the people arguing that kids in K-2 won’t keep their masks on are naive to the resiliency and buy in of kids. My youngest daughter says she doesn’t even notice the mask during the day. Her only complaint has been a later snack than she’s used to. I am very privileged and beyond thankful I’m able to send my kids to a private school with teachers who are willing to return in person. We experienced mental health issues with our 5th grade daughter during online learning and it was very scary, I’ve never felt so helpless. Returning to school of course won’t solve everything but the change in my children’s happiness has been such a blessing and I hope all children and parents who wish to be back in person can do so before fall of 2021. 

    • false equivalency February 22, 2021 (9:35 pm)

      I’m sorry to hear of your daughters mental health challenges that have come up. I really hope she is feeling better. Do you think schools being closed is the direct cause?

      Kids have mental health challenges, and would be having them still, even without a pandemic, and I worry parents (not necessarily in your case but in general) may be quick to blame the pandemic mitigations for mental health issues, when they may have occurred this year even without a pandemic. Absolutely no disrespect intended, in some situations, maybe it is the direct result of online learning.

      Also, there would still be plenty of pandemic related stress affecting families and kids, even if schools weren’t closed for this long… likely even more illness and deaths within families, and with school staff.

      Anecdotally, one of my favorite elementary teachers died during the school year, she was our science teacher, and this news was very sad and hard on all of us kids. I still think of it sometimes all these years later. 

      Imagine how this generation of kids would feel if they had lost a teacher or maybe multiple teachers to covid. 

      I think closing schools has been the right thing, and that it would be best to hold off for the rest of the year, and focus on returning well next Fall.

      Hope your family, and all, take good care, and have patience with one another. Such a hard time for all… even kids (and adults) out there without families and feeling isolated. Thinking of you too.

  • JimmyNimbles February 23, 2021 (4:15 am)

    Over the last year I’ve had my daughter at 3 different daycares. We had to leave the first daycare because of the bridge being out, and we left the second daycare because of them trying to run too high of a kid to teacher ratio which resulted in my daughter getting injured by another child because the teacher couldn’t keep track of everyone. Luckily our third try has been everything we wanted in a daycare. The interesting part, though, is that across all these massive networks of people, we’ve only seen two cases of Covid in the teaching staff. And in both cases, Covid was contracted by the teacher’s spouse and brought home, where the teachers then contracted it. Even then, after a facility wide shutdown and mandatory testing, no other teachers nor kids at the daycares had contracted the virus. Two examples that support the CDCs findings regarding low Covid transmission at schools. When are we going to make decisions based on actual results/facts vs what our scary imaginations try to suggest is happening?

    • Doing my job February 23, 2021 (9:12 am)

      Jimmy Nimbles, there are to many lemmings in this city that’s why no one can follow simple logic and science.I am a front line health care worker, i’ve never missed a day of work, i’ve only received my first round of the vaccination and have not contracted covid.  I’ve used common sense, proper hygiene and basic ppe to do my job.Teacher’s work with least age risk group (under 18) and very few teacher’s themselves are in the high risk age group (over 70).  The few times covid has been contracted by my coworkers it has been support staff or via contact outside of work.   If a teacher is concerned let them opt out until they get the vaccination. Private schools in WA and many public schools across the country have had little to no increased  transmission rates. The basic math does not support the teachers contention of increased risk; so it is likely another way to receive concessions and pay increases.   Demonstrating once again our kids come last.  BTW; my merit increase after this past year and 20 years in healthcare was about $1.50 per hour.  That’s the job i signed up for and that’s how i’m valued monetarily.

      • Parent of 2 teenagers/healthcare worker February 23, 2021 (7:22 pm)

        Thank you Doing my job!  Your sentiments are exactly how I’ve felt working in healthcare on the front lines.  I go to patient’s houses, have had a few encounters with patients and families that were COVID+ without them or me knowing it.  I have been anxious in my job over the past year, but good sanitary/infection control (hand sanitizer, masks, goggles- in poor ventilated areas) have kept me from getting COVID.  I would feel much safer around children than being around the adults I encounter everyday (yes, I am sometimes in their home 1.5 plus hours, increasing my chance of exposure). Healthcare workers didn’t have a feasible option of “saying no” to going to work.  We all have to make sacrifices with our careers (teachers included…as scary as it may be).

    • false equivalency February 23, 2021 (9:15 am)

      There are many differences between day cares and schools, including a lot more people in attendance at schools.

      Also, there are now new covid variant strains which have been shown to be highly contagious, and that could change things in the community quickly, impacting schools. 

      Surprised we haven’t seen a surge from the variants yet… might be a calm before the storm, but hopefully not. 

      With numbers being lower recently, people must be doing better with social distancing and masking, which is another reason for waiting so long for schools to open. Adherence to mitigation strategies is critical when reopening, seems we’re almost there. 

      But, with such little time left in the school year, why not focus on reopening well in the Fall, when more will be vaccinated, and allow kids to continue with their current learning model they’ve adapted to? I don’t think it’s healthy to send them back at this time.

      • flimflam February 23, 2021 (9:23 pm)

        i will bet that teachers will not return in the fall, regardless. that is just my opinion obviously…

  • J February 23, 2021 (9:07 am)

    The biggest fallacy of the school closure is assuming that kids aren’t congregating in large groups in other places. For parents who can’t stay home every day (even with school age children) pre-schools and day cares have become the only option. Kids are packed into the Y and other day care programs wearing masks and virtually learning. Working parents have now been forced to pay the additional cost of day care for school age children. I don’t know what the solution is and I absolutely respect the right of SEA to protect the health and well-being of their teachers – but assuming that school age kids aren’t already packed into classrooms with day care providers who do not have the protection of a union is false.

  • Ginq February 23, 2021 (12:00 pm)

    Why are the SPS playgrounds still locked? I don’t buy the maintenance issues arguement.  Over summers and breaks in the past playgrounds have not been maintained. The “scary teens”  can scale the fences quite nicely no matter how many locks and bales of wire are used. 

  • Teacher February 23, 2021 (10:40 pm)

    The problem with the start date is because SPS is NOT doing what they said they would do since September. SEA is not making demands that were not already agreed upon in September when the bargaining was reached then. In that bargaining, MOU, it is stated that SPS must come back and bargain with the union if they wanted to return to in person before the Fall 2021. SPS made the start dates before even bargaining with the union. March 8 is probably not going to happen either because Rep Assembly has to vote on it and that won’t happen before March 8. Next, SPS is supposed to make sure that the air systems in all schools have proper ventilation. They are supposed to go through HVAC checks. The problem is that many of those reports have not been shared with staff and the reports that have been shared show that many of the schools do not have a good air system or rooms that will pass these quality checks. In West Seattle, we have a school that was deemed hazardous and an entire school population was moved out of it and placed in another school. However, the district placed at least two school programs in that condemned location and have not updated the air systems, mold issues, or other problems and students are expected to return to this building that was horrible pre-pandemic and is even worse now. Many schools do not have windows that open all the way or even have doors or windows that face outside to start an airflow. SPS was expected to work on this in order to move towards getting students back in person. They have not. So no, SPS does not have rooms ready for students. Next, SEA is holding SPS up to the requirement that they need to provide PPE for staff. At this time, for the few students who are receiving in person services, the staff providing those services are not receiving proper PPE. So, no SPS does not have the PPE ready. SPS is trying to send back k-1 and students that are in the intensive services pathways. Let’s clarify what this means. k-1, general education, would be in cohorts, small ratios of teacher to students, students would eat in their classrooms, no physical touching, must wear masks, social distancing, classrooms would be bare of materials that would be shared. However, general education students in k-1 could most likely follow the CDC guidelines that say what makes schools safe to open.  CDC says schools are safe to reopen for in person services IF everyone wears masks and PPE when needed, social distancing is able to be done, small ratios in classes, limited interactions with other cohorts, and ventilation has been modified (note: hospitals have excellent HVAC systems, schools do not). There are some other pieces on the CDC website that even has mitigation kits and checklists. NOW, let’s talk about the students in intensive services. These are students who are medically fragile, have multiple disabilities, severe/profound disabilities, autism, social emotional disabilities, and moderate cognitive disabilities. Many of these students can not wear masks, can not socially distance, can not sit in one place the whole day. Many of these students require help with feeding (some have feeding tubes) and toileting. Some of these students have behaviors like eloping, biting, licking, hugging. Some of these students need sensory adaptations. There has been a process in place for these students to receive in person services. However, the district has been extremely slow in getting this done. Partially because they have not been able to uphold the HVAC needs or the PPE needs. SPS’s plan has not addressed any of the concerns that have arisen with their plan. They have not addressed how we would handle bathrooming, feeding, students who need to have physical contact, or that none of them can wear masks. Even according to the CDC, sending many of these students would not be safe for the people in the schools and the students and their families. Also, if any teacher or staff has asthma they can not get fitted for an N95 mask. This is a problem. I personally do not want to be the one that carries Covid to my vunerable students and their families.Also, two days to get rooms ready is not enough when there are specific guidelines that will need to be put in place. Materials made for each student, spacing, and hiding materials that students can not share/use. Teachers need to be given the specifications also. SEA is not proposing that teachers get vaccinated before return. Also, teachers and staff that work with students in intensive services are definitely not like grocery workers. We can’t socially distance or stand behind plexiglass to teach and work with these students. SEA is asking that teachers who are at risk that they can continue to teach remotely and the same for the instructional aides who are at risk. Age is not the only factor for risk and just because a person doesn’t die doesn’t mean they are back to perfect health after surviving Covid. SPS is not like private schools. Unlike private schools, SPS has students with disabilities and have larger numbers of students. SPS has old schools that are not up to date. SPS needs to quit blaming the union and teachers and start looking within. I know that many people are only looking at the negative of remote learning, but there are students who are being very successful during remote learning. For these students remote learning has helped them because they are no longer dealing with bullies, sensory overload, and anxiety inducing crowds. I don’t want to get rid of the remote learning option for our students because it has been great for some of our students. 

    • Pessoa February 24, 2021 (12:41 pm)

      Again,  with many other school districts around the the country – and even within this state – facing identical less than ideal circumstances as you have outlined, why have they been able to re-reopen safely and not the Seattle school district?  Could it be that the SEA has greatly exaggerated and magnified the dangers of re-opening and are using the opportunity to extract concessions (or remedy old grievances) from SPS that likely have little or nothing to do with Covid-19 mitigation?   Although I’m not privy to negotiations,  I  have been involved Guild politics in the past, and I suspect that an answer of “yes” is a good bet.      

      • Teacher February 24, 2021 (2:06 pm)

        I have friends who teach in other states where schools are hybrid. It isn’t successful. At least 10 of those teachers I know have gotten Covid from school. They know this because the only place they go is to school. They are now dealing with long term problems from Covid. They are out of sick leave and still have to do mandatory quarantining when a students exposes them and others There, which happens regularly. There is no accurate contact tracing, students and teachers have to pay for tests out of pocket because the states don’t have free or accessible testing. Students are getting Covid for the few that do get tested especially for parents who are wanting to send kids back before quarantine is done. Schools there are not providing PPE or cleaning supplies or doing deep clean. I know at several of those schools where more than half the students and staff are out due to they have Covid or the students and their families have it or have come.in direct contact. Also, the school districts don’t have to report the numbersike hospitals have to do. The difference between Seattle school district and others especially in many of the states that have opened schools….. we have a union and they don’t. As far as the negotiations, I don’t think the union is asking for anything crazy. I think a plan that follows CDC and Washington Labor and Safety is a reasonable ask. I think asking for PPE to be provided is a reasonable ask. I think providing more than 2 days to prepare classrooms, materials, and new adapt to the new rosters is a reasonable ask. I think asking for ventilation reports and building safety reports and asking for modifications of ventilation systems to fit Covid safety protocols is a reasonable ask. SPS shouldn’t be directing teachers and staff to open a window or to buy their own air purifiers for their classrooms. SPS agreed in September that if the plans were to come back to in person before the year was up that they would bargain with the union. The problem is that SPS made the dates before bargaining was even started. They made the claims and sent out information and they did not even go to the union. In fact, they didn’t tell SPS teachers and instructional aides either. We found out through the news or through parents sending us the information. The union isn’t the one that is stalling. 

  • AnotherMother February 26, 2021 (8:45 am)

    Thank you Teacher for laying out facts and reality. I will be ignoring random opinions in favor of facts. My kids will be staying at home until at the very least teachers and staff are vaccinated. SPS was a mess before Covid and have not learned a thing since. And why our state has not prioritized teachers is beyond me (CDC guidance is just that). I have a child with ADHD and while he is generally fine he forgets to pull his mask up sometimes. This puts him and others at risk. I’m not risking his life for other people’s opinions. What if he is one of the unlucky kids that’s gets really sick? Nope. Lets not forget, they are not TESTING people when they vaccinate them. Can they still spread it? We are still handling this pandemic ineptly, even with the new administration. 

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