Despite hopes we’d be closer to the end of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re all continuing to grapple with how to navigate an uncertain future. The delta variant is surging as Washington State’s kids return to school. Essential COVID-19 protections, like the eviction moratorium and expanded unemployment benefits, have lapsed just as local rent prices have again begun to rise.
These types of stress can cause huge strains on mental health — especially for kids. And for families who are grappling with how to pay for rent and essentials, or the daily impacts of systemic racism, these stressors are multiplied. As a psychologist-in-training working at a local children’s inpatient program, I see firsthand just how many families in our community are struggling to maintain baseline economic stability.
Fortunately, the monthly Child Tax Credits — implemented in July as part of the American Rescue Plan — are a game changer. These direct cash payments of up to $300 per child for nearly 9 in 10 U.S. families with kids are providing a new standard of support. Critically, the credit was expanded to be fully refundable, which essentially means that families with very low to no incomes — who were previously ineligible — finally qualify for the credit’s full support.
Last week, Seattle Public Schools (SPS) announced to parents via their newsletter that the Virtual Option Pilot Program (VOPP) would be limited to kindergarten through fifth grade. Sixth to 12th graders who want virtual learning options will be given a list of suggested external virtual programs. This walked back a June 17 announcement that the VOPP would be K–12 and drew immediate criticism from the Seattle Education Association (SEA).
In a recent conversation with the Emerald, Dr. Concie Pedroza, SPS associate superintendent, cited low enrollment numbers for the K–12 pilot, the complexity of middle and high school course offerings, and resulting staffing challenges as primary factors in the district’s decision.
In an SPS student survey conducted late last school year and filled out by about half of all middle and high schoolers, 6% of the high schoolers and 7% of middle schoolers indicated they would like to continue with fully remote learning in the future.
In this final article of a three-part series, Jasmine M. Pulido explores the future of programs for students designated highly capable in Seattle Public Schools.
The Future of Highly Capable Cohort: From HCC to HCS
Highly capable services are deemed part of basic education by state law, but the cohort is not.Starting in the 2022–2023 school year, the district’s Advanced Learning Department will begin a six-year plan to phase out the cohortmodel while gradually phasing in a new model. The recently amended changes to School Board Policy 2190, “Highly Capable Services and Advanced Learning Programs,” convert this accelerated curriculum cohort model (HCC) into an inclusive and accessible service model (Highly Capable Services or HCS) to meet the needs of students at their neighborhood school. In other words, SPS will no longer focus on searching for and separating “gifted students” from the general student population and will, instead, focus on having flexible services available to all students. HCS will still include an accelerated curriculum but can also include services like enriched learning opportunities, classroom pullouts for advanced content on a specific subject, and cluster groups depending on what best meets the individual student’s needs. In short, Highly Capable Cohort as a self-contained setting for advanced students will be completely dismantled and phased out.