Remote Volunteers are individuals whose volunteer activities are performed from home, work, or any location other than the classroom, school building, grounds, or any other type of school property.
Many school volunteer roles have been performed remotely prior to COVID-19 (e.g. preparing classroom materials, organizing field trips, editing newsletters), however, school closures created a need for most traditional Seattle Public Schools volunteer opportunities to become remote and dependent on technology. For this reason, Seattle Public Schools formalized our remote volunteer roles guidelines to support schools in creating safe remote volunteer engagement pathways.
Category A remote volunteers are screened using the same process as traditional school volunteers. Category B remote volunteers are matched with remote roles more intentionally, have their references checked specifically for online interactions with children and youth, and are required to follow extra safety protocols (see volunteer handbook for details).
Becoming a Remote Volunteer
If you already are approved to volunteer with Seattle Public Schools but not as a “remote/virtual volunteer”, ask the staff member who recruited you for support to determine if the role will be a Category A or a Category B volunteer.
If your remote volunteer role will fall under Category A, no additional screening is needed – just make sure your application is current and approved by your school.
If your remote volunteer role will fall under Category B, you will also need to purchase a national background check. Here is how:
- Log into the volunteer portal and click “update application”
- Go to a section titled “Determining Your Background Check” and select “B. I was recruited to serve as a Category B volunteer.”
- Keep scrolling until you can click “Save”.
- An email from our national background check vendor Sterling Volunteers will arrive in your inbox shortly – check your “junk/spam/bulk” folder if you can’t locate it.
- Follow included instructions. Sterling Volunteers will notify you as soon as your background check is complete (usually 1-2 days).
The school volunteer program liaison or the staff member who requested your support will also check your references and verify your identity.
In lieu of a “sign-in sheet” used in school buildings for arriving volunteers, remote volunteers complete an online “sign-in sheet” or “session report form”. Please ask staff for a link. Example of a ‘sign in sheet’.
Why am I asked to pay for my background check?
COVID and resulting school closures changed volunteer engagement pathways dramatically. One unexpected impact on our program was a much greater need for volunteers to complete the national-level background check required for supporting students without staff supervision.
In previous years, few volunteers needed a national background check because volunteers supported students in one classroom or library space with the teacher present and able to monitor interactions. Unfortunately, teacher supervision during online tutoring and in break-out rooms is not practical or possible. Additionally, compared to volunteering in person, remote volunteering with students presents higher risks of exploitation, abuse, or exposure to explicit or violent materials. SPS Volunteer Services Program Administrator is seeking grants/private donations to create a pool of background check funds for low-income families and will update this website if such funds become available. In the meantime, consider these options:
- contact the school’s PTSA and ask if they reimburse for background checks
- ask the teacher if they can pair you with another Category A volunteer who will co-lead online activities with you so none of you are alone with students.
Are caretakers considered “remote volunteers”?
Caretakers play a vital role in helping students access and navigate online learning. If the caretaker only assists and interacts with their own student(s), they are not considered volunteers.
However, caretakers are fantastic candidates for classroom and breakout room volunteers! If you support your child’s remote learning and are available to also assist other students in their classroom, please let your teacher know. Before you begin in this role, you must be approved as a Category A or B remote volunteer.