FOLLOWUP: Progress in Seattle Public Schools standoff over next step in resuming in-person learning, but no student return before March 29

Seattle Public Schools just announced progress in its talks with the Seattle Education Association, in the dispute over the district’s unilateral declaration that some staff is “essential” and must return to campuses this week to offer in-person learning for Special Education “intensive pathways” and preschool. The district just tweeted that it’s canceling that order, as the union had asked. Here’s the text of the tweets:

It is in the best interest of our students, staff, and families that SPS and SEA are unified in our approach to a return to in-person learning. We are close to a tentative agreement on the return of PreK and Special Education Intensive Service Pathways.

Together, we commit to bargaining an agreement so these students can begin in-person learning services on March 29th. In response to this joint commitment, SPS is rescinding its order from February 25 designating additional staff as “essential.”

Staff that support these students will return to buildings as early as March 22 to receive health and safety training, set up classrooms, and prepare for students. SPS and SEA will continue negotiating the return of K-1 grade students as directed by the School Board.

SPS and SEA also said in an emailed, jointly issued news release:

Today, Washington State Department of Labor & Industries and an independent HVAC contractor, together with SPS and SEA leaders, reviewed the readiness of multiple SPS school buildings. While this was not a required reopening step, it was an important one to help ensure staff and families are confident in the district’s adherence to Washington State Labor & Industries, Washington State DOH, Public Health – Seattle & King County, and federal CDC guidance and recommendations.

At the conclusion of this walkthrough there were no major issues identified. However, SPS and SEA together agreed that school staff could benefit from additional time to prepare to offer the safest, most equitable in-person learning environments possible in every SPS building. SPS and SEA’s bargaining teams are negotiating in good faith to reach an agreement this week and allow the time needed to ratify the agreement.

So bottom line, the first group of students to return won’t do so before March 29th.

35 Replies to "FOLLOWUP: Progress in Seattle Public Schools standoff over next step in resuming in-person learning, but no student return before March 29"

  • KWestSeattle March 9, 2021 (10:57 am)

    SPS and SEA have failed students once again. I continue to feel great about my decision to withdraw both my elementary age children for this school year. 

    • Malea Williams March 10, 2021 (8:10 am)

       I wish I would have done what you did. Sps has been a dumpster fire and I stuck around to be torched. 

  • skeeter March 9, 2021 (11:04 am)

    This is fantastic news! 
    While the rest of the country, including neighboring districts, are well
    underway bringing students back to the classroom safely, Seattle has a plan to continue
    discussions in hope of someday starting the process of maybe talking about
    bringing a few children back to the classroom. 
    I do not, in any way, blame rank and file teachers for this disaster.  SPS teachers are working incredibly hard
    under difficult conditions.  This is absolutely
    not the fault of teachers.  It is a failure
    of leadership – both SPS and SEA.  I can
    see why private schools in Seattle are thriving.     

    • W sea res March 9, 2021 (2:19 pm)

      As a teacher let me say thank you for this comment. Every single teacher I talked to wants to go back to in person learning ASAP 

    • ConcernedParent March 9, 2021 (7:58 pm)

      Exactly this. This is everything in Seattle: we will discuss the possibility of us deciding to do something in the future, which we need to then discuss how we will discuss that future time. 

  • TJ March 9, 2021 (12:34 pm)

    The Seattle process is in action here. It is obvious Seattle schools will be the last to get all students back in the classroom. How hard is it? Kids are the least affected by covid, but are paying the most emotionally because adults can’t figure this out. In addition to how many students are back in the classroom nationally, we have states that are fully opening up! Yet here it is getting more likely that not all kids will be in school next fall. Not just in, but in fully. The beaucracy here will guarantee a unnecessary slow phased approach by class, no matter what’s go on. 

  • ProudPapa March 9, 2021 (12:46 pm)

    Thank goodness both my high school aged kids have been in private school throughout this pandemic (and they attend different private high schools). They have both continued with their lessons via Zoom – and for the last few months have been in person a couple days a weeks. No issues – plenty of distancing – it’s been a great experience. Meanwhile my property tax continues to pay for a public school system that is broken with people on both sides who don’t have the kids interest in mind. 

    • West Sea res March 9, 2021 (2:21 pm)

      Thank you for sharing the tale of your privileged life with us. Rest assured that your property taxes are paying for passionate teachers trying very hard to educate children in your neighborhood under extreme circumstances

      • Jim March 9, 2021 (4:31 pm)

        Not necessarily a matter of privilege some people work very hard. I have a neighbor who works at Boeing and often works 6 days a week and his wife also works and most of her paycheck goes towards the private school tuition. Just because people work hard to get money to put their kids into a school that isn’t failing doesn’t mean it’s privilege.

      • WS Taxpayer March 9, 2021 (4:42 pm)

        Sending your kids to private school doesn’t require privilege, it requires choice, sacrifice, and often times asking for assistance to provide the best education for your children.  Based on the continued infighting in the public schools here in Seattle, that CHOICE has been proven incredibly valuable to the development of my children in particular.  I am proud of how the private & parochial sector has proven that in person school is safe and for putting our children’s physical and emotional well being FIRST and FOREMOST.  I do not fault individual teachers but the bureaucracy in the SPS that has resulted in a lost year for these kids is reprehensible. 

      • Anne March 9, 2021 (5:57 pm)

        What an old, tired, uninformed statement. Not every person sending their kids to private school are “ privileged “- far from it in fact. As someone else said- it’s a choice -that for many means sacrifice. I do rest assured that my property taxes pay for passionate teachers -I know they want nothing more than to get back to the classroom- SAFELY. Vaccination, plenty of proper PPE’s & cleaning supplies they don’t have to pay for themselves – those things should be the priority for every teacher at every school.

      • Beaches March 9, 2021 (6:21 pm)

        It is 100% a matter of privilege and anyone here who says otherwise is not being honest with themselves . I say this as a parent of 2 kids in a WS Catholic school. Do we work hard to pay for it? Yes. Does it require two incomes? Absolutely. Could I afford this if I had student debt? No. As a single parent? Nope. If I had major medical expenses? Hardly. To apply the old “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” theory here is just…well, it’s privileged. That being said, I am still grateful that our kids’ school is not at the mercy of the unions and that they have the PRIVILEGE  of going to school.  I am deeply concerned for the kids who don’t have the same privilege of in-school learning right now. This will perpetuate the gap between the haves and the have-nots. To the SPS families looking to place blame…If you think the majority of teachers (not all) aren’t voting in favor of staying remote at their union meetings, you’re in denial. 

        • Mel March 9, 2021 (6:57 pm)

          I agree there are definitely privileged families at private schools but all schools offer different levels of financial aid. I know quite a few people personally who’s children are enrolled in Catholic schools and they’re paying very little. Yes even that little amount is a sacrifice and they forego other things in order to pay for it. 

          • Beaches March 10, 2021 (12:21 am)

            As I said, I have two kids in private school.  We receive financial aid but still need to come up with $600 for annual re-enrollment fees (no aid for this), $175 for annual auction item (no aid for this), $10K annually for tuition with a promise of annual tuition hikes and shrinking sibling discounts (this is after financial aid), $100 annual school supply charge, $50 technology charge, uniforms (you guessed it…no aid for these) and additionally we are required to tithe a monthly minimum of $85 to the church. Also, families are required to volunteer 50 hours a year on behalf of the school or else get charged $15/hr for every unfulfilled volunteer hour. Try doing that while working your extra jobs to pay the tuition. No, I’m sorry. Sending kids to private school is not just as simple as making a couple of sacrifices here and there…it is a steady, constant, year-round drumbeat of expenses. We pay it because we can, albeit with many financial challenges, but I guarantee you this is not a sacrifice just anyone can make simply by cutting back on the cable bill or using coupons. 

        • Arbor March 9, 2021 (7:29 pm)

          Hold on.  The word privileged is being throw around as a word of hate and being said with derision.  It is not bad to be privileged nor should any person with privilege feel bad about having it.  For those defending themselves you don’t have to.  Some people have more choices than the rest of us.  That needs to be ok without attacking for having that choice.  While I don’t have that choice I love that some do.  This isn’t a socialist society and I hope it never is.The teachers are keeping the students from returning.  THEY ARE THE UNION.  The can vote to head back or not.  While private schools have been doing in person all year public students have been suffering.  While I don’t envy the work our teachers are doing with remote learning, it is within their control to head back to class.

  • WSOwl March 9, 2021 (1:30 pm)

    The rest of school year should be virtual at this point. Let’s plan for the fall.

    • skeeter March 9, 2021 (4:18 pm)

      I disagree 100%.  If we do not start getting kids back in classrooms this spring then I guarantee there will be no kids in the classroom on September 1, 2021.   

      • Gebus March 9, 2021 (4:40 pm)

        I personally wouldn’t return my kids to school until I know all the staff has been vaccinated and has been given the opportunity to do so, and ideally all the family members have been also.

        I really don’t get this rush to push kids back into school just because people are tired of it or think it’s damaging the kids. While online learning can drag and be difficult sometimes I will take that over risking my daughters and my health just because.

        People keep saying this doesn’t affect kids, but it does and has affected people of all ages, including many kids though not in the higher levels we see in the older and medically compromised. Also kids can still be carrying the virus, not be affected but still bring it home to their families and loved ones. There isn’t even a vaccine for kids yet.

        My kids school has 600 students and no room to move around the classroom, hallways and break rooms pre-Covid so how are they going to manage if they rush to put them all back?

        The one thing I think I can guarantee is that kids in her age group won’t keep masks on all day, practice safe social distancing and wash their hands enough to keep surfaces in the school clean enough to open up the schools to 100% capacity and make me feel like my kid isn’t potentially being exposed to and bringing Covid into the home.

        I am medically compromised myself and can’t risk getting ill. I’m glad SPS is taking it slow and ensuring the safety of all involved.

        • Arbor March 9, 2021 (7:33 pm)

          Sounds like your personal decision would be to keep your kids home and that is great for you.  I want my kids in school.  They are missing out on so much and virtual learning does not work for them.

        • Molly March 9, 2021 (8:14 pm)

          My 5 year old is able to keep his mask on at preschool, which he does every single day of the week, and has done since the beginning of the year. Every single kid in their class wears and mask and can manage it just fine. 

      • ConcernedParent March 9, 2021 (8:13 pm)

        I guarantee the kids won’t see school this year, and next fall they will discuss bringing back the kinder kids for 2 days a week only, and will continue remote until *all kids are given a vaccine or offered one* because that is the life these teachers lead: one where, even when there is no risk to them, they don’t want to return to teaching because they view their job as not critical. It doesn’t matter if our system is broken and parents need kids in classrooms so that they can work: that is the reality of our society and teachers are as necessary as bus drivers- and they have been offered the vaccine BEFORE bus drivers, so if they’re refusing to go back, then it begs the question as to why they were offered it, and why they took it, if they had no plans to return. Every single science and health agency says we CAN and SHOULD return to school, and yet the teachers of SPS want to act like they are better experts of science than those with MPHs and PhDs and MDs. The whole argument that SEA wants more clarification than “SPS will follow all PHKC and DOH guidelines regarding contact tracing and positive cases in the schools” is that SEA doesn’t want SPS to be able to have less rigid standards than exists right now, at this point. But that’s not how a pandemic works, nor is that how it’s ever worked. As we know more, as more are vaccinated, rates lower and change. And then the guidelines may change, and it’s OKAY for SPS to go with the new guidelines. But SEA wants SPS to say they will not change at all, that this is how it will be until it’s renegotiated- which, given how wonderfully *every single negotiation* between the two, I think our kids will barely see school before December 2021. Those who can flee the district have, and will continue, to. So where your equality, SEA, when all those with privilege go to Private schools?

    • 1994 March 9, 2021 (9:00 pm)

      Right, return to school for about 2 weeks and then there is 1 week of spring break April 12-16! Maybe the teachers union thought that after 2 weeks of school everyone would need a break already.

  • WSgrown March 9, 2021 (6:09 pm)

    SEA has worked really hard on this one to get special ed teachers noted as non-essential. Well done. Their rigid demands will ensure all teachers for all grades remain unessential, oh wait, except for getting vaccines. 

    • flimflam March 9, 2021 (8:09 pm)

      yep. getting hard to defend them at this point, as an “essential worker” since a year ago. no need for the vaccine line jump if you have no intentions of working around people until maybe next school year.

  • WS_Steve March 9, 2021 (7:09 pm)

    Sending kids back to school now would be disastrous. New virus strains are much more dangerous for young people and we don’t fully understand the danger yet. And children spread the virus even if they aren’t symptomatic. Which means opening schools can kick off an outbreak in the community starting with teachers, staff, their families, and the families of students. We are very close to having everyone immunized. We need to stay the course, which most likely means not opening schools until Fall.

    • WSgrown March 9, 2021 (8:30 pm)

      This is simply not true. Schools have not been shown to be a major source of spread above community rates. Viruses mutate and scientists will spend the next decades of their research careers studying it. If we wait to have this all figured out it will be years. Adults cannot continue to make children suffer out of their unfounded fears. 

      • Anne March 9, 2021 (10:02 pm)

        Unfounded fears-are you serious? You want your kids back in school-make sure the teachers are as safe as possible. If teachers are imperative- act like it -make their health & safety a priority-so they can be there for your kids. No one is saying wait until all this is figured out- but we can be sure teachers are as safe as humanly possible right now. How demeaning to call teachers concerns for their health , their families health & yes, their students health “ unfounded fears”.

  • Arbor Heights Parent March 9, 2021 (8:32 pm)

    This is so disappointing. So frustrated with public schools here. Kids need to be back in school. It’s affecting their learning, social development and mental health. Prioritize teachers for vaccines and get the kids back in the classroom ASAP. It’s been over a year at this point and life must go on. While I’m thankful to live in a community that takes mask wearing and science seriously, continuing without school like this is utterly impractical and the opposite extreme. I can’t believe the teachers union is abandoning the kids and parents like this.

    • Kids needs School March 10, 2021 (8:40 am)

      Agree with you completely.  Time for teachers to demand their union do the right thing and get our kids back into school.  If a few teachers want to opt out let’s accommodate them.  Essential workers of all kinds have been working the past year without vaccinations.  The math shows transmissions rates related to work conditions are very very low.  Other states that are open show that what teachers are choosing to do outside of work has been the cause of the majority of transmissions; but since most teachers are under 70 years of age complications have been well below the average.  It’s hard in this city to be critical in any way of teacher’s and their union; but i feel they’ve been able to  stay home because others have shown up every day to do their jobs; teachers need to be in the classroom.  Masks and hand washing work. 

  • Concerned March 9, 2021 (8:42 pm)

    The level of anti teacher bashing here when usually West Seattle folks are super supportive really highlights the level of concerns parents have.  I have a 1st grader who really struggles to learn with remote learning and am very concerned about their progress.  Remember first graders got 6 months in person as kindergarteners followed by 4 months of no live instruction followed by now 6 months and counting of remote.  I certainly want to be safe and up until recently remote was likely the right move but we have nearly 20% of the population vaccinated and by the end of the month it will be ~30% including many teachers.  What are my options, hope for the best, consider private schools and hope they would allow my child in (given the lack of learning the past 12 months).  Will public school even be full time in the fall?  What are the medium to long term impacts to publics schools if everyone moves up a grade for next year but a large percentage of younger grade schoolers didn’t learn half as much.  Are we as a family better off penny pinching and trying to get in a private program that won’t be perpetually behind 1-2 years.  Will the gap between say public and Hope locally grow wider and wider?  Does anyone know of any summer school programs?  

  • Amy March 9, 2021 (9:17 pm)

    Give us the Choice


    SEA and Seattle
    Public Schools need to give us choice.

    pandemic has made clear that we each have a different risk tolerance and comfort level with Covid.
    What is right for each family as we navigate through this pandemic is very different.
    Let’s allow families and teachers to make the choice that is right for them.
    Allow students and teachers back in buildings if they choose. Match classes and
    teacher the best we can. Families and teachers that are more comfortable finishing
    the year at home are welcome to stay remote.

    Every family
    can choose what is right for them.

    Highline Public
    Schools plans to implement this approach starting on March 11th.

    It is time
    to stop the debate on what is right for all and allow each of us to make the
    choice for what is right for us and our families.

    SEA and SPS
    need to work together to create this option for us all to choose. No more excuses or delays. The buildings are ready and so are many families, students and teachers.

    Amy West

    SPS Parent
    and Teacher 

  • WS resident March 10, 2021 (1:04 am)

    As a private school teacher and parent of SPS students it is time that the kids go back to school.  The vast majority of kids can properly wear masks by now (it’s not hard, even preschool children do it) plus vaccinations are available for teachers.  If the largest school district in our country (NYC public schools) can be back in person hybrid- even late last fall then SPS certainly should be going back. Almost everyone in the school I work at has already had their first dose of the vaccine, it is not that hard to get appointments now if you’re tech savvy enough to search and find one.  These teachers need to get the vaccine and get back in school teaching kids in person.  Let these poor kids at least end the school year with being back with their friends and classmates.  Also, yes give families the choice.  I am confident that the vast majority of children would return.

  • Appreciation March 10, 2021 (8:18 am)

    Dear SPS teachers,

    Thank you for your hard work, positivity, adaptability, creativity, and endurance, with teaching our kids during an incredibly challenging year.

    Keep voicing your ideas and concerns, stand up for your needs, and please, do something nice for yourself, you all deserve it!

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