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    Preparing for Remote Learning this Fall
    Posted on 07/29/2020
    A group of people stand in a school gym to collect books for students

    Preparing for Remote Learning this Fall

    The environment and information around COVID-19 continues to shift and change, but Seattle Public Schools remains committed to providing a high-quality education for all students. On August 12, the Seattle School Board will vote on Superintendent Juneau's recommendation to prioritize the health and wellbeing of students and staff by starting the 2020-21 school year remotely.

    In preparation, district staff are working to improve remote instruction. This includes creating guidelines and recommendations for educators to improve consistency across the district, sharing predictable, districtwide schedules for live instruction, and ensuring every student has access to internet and devices.

    Technology and Internet Access

    By September, Seattle Public Schools plans to provide every student with a computer or device. This is commonly referred to as a 1:1 (one-to-one) technology model.

    This effort started in March when Department of Technology Services staff configured over 10,000 district computers to distribute to students. Students who didn't have a device at home, students experiencing poverty, high school and middle school students, and students experiencing homelessness were prioritized for initial support. SPS also partnered with Amazon to deliver 8,200 new computers to elementary students. In total, close to 50% of SPS students received a device this spring.

    Additionally, SPS staff held a series of events over the summer to get families signed up for free internet. The district has ordered additional hot spots and placed three large orders of computers this summer. Staff are in the process of planning technology distribution events before school begins, as well as staffing resource centers for the first few weeks of school.

    To support families with this new technology, SPS is working with partners to launch a help line. SPSTV is also working with the Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment Department to produce how-to videos for students and families using learning platforms.

    Consistent and Predictable Remote Instruction

    In the spring, Seattle Public Schools assembled a Remote Learning Steering Committee to build on the successes of our educators and address gaps in consistency of remote instruction. The steering committee, along with academic content teams, and a core team, is made up of educators, school leaders, community partners, and central office staff. The groups met over the summer to create the Remote Learning Playbook for educators and families to use this fall.

    The playbook is directly informed by the experiences of students, families, and educators during the 2019-20 school year. This spring, SPS, in collaboration with Attuned Education Partners, invited all families, educators, school leaders, and central office staff to participate in stakeholder surveys to inform remote learning improvements. The steering committee has carefully reviewed the response data, along with critical feedback and input from families furthest from educational justice, to create recommendations responsive to community needs. Overwhelmingly, families asked for more consistency and for more live instruction. Learn more about the survey results.

    In response, the steering committee created recommended schedules with live, remote classroom instruction, which will be voted on by the School Board on August 12. Schedules will be consistent across the district and predictable for families, students, and staff. This work will be shared during the August 5 School Board Work session.

    Additionally, recommendations to the School Board include training for educators on best practices in digital instruction, which is being offered throughout the summer. Training for educators is being developed to support all SEA represented staff and school leaders.

    The Summer of Learning and Seattle Super Readers

    Over 30% of Seattle Public Schools students participated in the Summer of Learning. Unlike past summers, SPS' summer learning program was held remotely, allowing three times as many students to participate.

    In addition to helping students sharpen their academic skills for the next school year, the Summer of Learning has helped the district improve its remote learning practice. All 400 educators who supported summer learning received 20 hours of training in remote instruction. And, feedback from families has helped the district build on the success of summer learning.

    "We have been really thankful for the summer program," one parent shared. "During quarantine, our son was having a hard time participating in any class Zoom time or teacher meetings. We eventually gave up trying to get him to engage. After just a few weeks of Summer Staircase, he has been able to stay engaged in class meetings and small groups and is making noticeable progress with his literacy."

    Staff also worked with the Seattle Public Library and 74 of our school librarians to provide books for all grade levels and interests at summer meal sites. Since July 7, approximately 30,000 books have been distributed to our Seattle Super Readers at 26 meal sites.

    "Seattle Super Reader books are a hit! Staffing the Aki Kurose site was the closest thing I've felt to 'normal' since March," JK Burwell, teacher and librarian at Aki Kurose Middle School said. "Helping children and parents choose from a fantastic selection of new, high quality books was a very rewarding experience."

    Supports for Students Receiving Special Education Services

    For students receiving special education services, in alignment with their IEP, some students may receive small group, in-person instruction if it is determined that services can be provided safely, and services cannot be accessed successfully through remote learning.

    In preparation, facilities staff have been hard at work preparing school buildings. This includes reconfiguring classrooms, cleaning and maintaining buildings, and checking each space to ensure its suitable for in-person instruction. Staff is working hard to ensure we meet all the health and safety guidelines outlined by Public Health – Seattle & King County.

    Seattle Public Schools is committed to the academic success and wellbeing of all students, especially during the pandemic. We will continue to keep families, staff, and our community informed on our efforts to provide more robust remote instruction. To learn more about the district’s recommendations and associated plan, tune into the Board Work Session on August 5.