Seattle Public Schools Outlines Potential Return to In-Person Learning for Some Students

by Elizabeth Turnbull

As of Tuesday, Seattle Public Schools (SPS) and the Seattle Education Association (SEA) arrived at a tentative agreement which may mean K–12 special education intensive service pathways students, all kindergarten through 5th grade students, and all preschool students will be returning to school buildings at the end of this month to early next month.

The agreement, which will be brought to the SEA membership to be formally agreed upon and to the SPS Board of Directors for a vote next week, outlines a return to in-person learning starting on March 29 for all preschool students and for students enrolled in elementary special education intensive services pathways.

For students from kindergarten to 5th grade, as well as middle school and high school students enrolled in special education intensive pathways, however, the return date set by the recent plan is April 5.

As of this writing, bargaining continues with regard to bringing general middle and high school students back to classrooms, including 6th through 8th grade students attending K–8 schools, and SEA and SPS are still working on coming to an agreement. 

While the current agreement would mean a return to school for some, these students will still be learning through a hybrid method of teaching where they are taught in person part-time and are also taught remotely part-time.

All preschool, K–5, and PreK–12 students enrolled in intensive service pathways will be offered four half days of in-person instruction per week. Wednesdays will be remote learning for all students, and students in an Individualized Education Program (IEP) who require all-day instruction will be able to receive it. 

All families will also be offered a 100% remote option and the families of Kindergarten through 5th grade students will be able to opt out of the in-person model in a survey that’s set to be sent out later this week. 

In a recent interview with the Seattle Times, Brent Jones, who will begin as the interim superintendent for the Seattle Public Schools district this summer, also emphasised adaptability in regard to in-person learning going forward. 

“We need to remain flexible and open to the possibilities,” Jones said. “We’re learning that sometimes online for some students has been better than when they had to come to a building. I remain open for them to be able to have a continuance of what works and maybe partially come into school. This is a great opportunity for us to study what works.” 

Elizabeth Turnbull is a journalist with reporting experience in the U.S. and the Middle East. She has a passion for covering human-centric issues and doing so consistently.

Featured Image: South Seattle students listen intently during a 2019 poetry event. (Photo: Susan Fried)

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