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Volunteer Application Process

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Instructions and Resources for NEW School Volunteers

Thank you for your interest in volunteering with Seattle Public Schools! Volunteer opportunities vary by school. We recommend that you complete the following application process after receiving confirmation from a school staff member about your volunteer role. Whether you are a parent, a family member, or a community member, the following resources will help you prepare to volunteer with our students.

SPS serves 53,000 vulnerable children and youth – we are committed to carefully screening volunteer candidates to ensure student safety as required by law, SPS policies, and the Washington Schools Risk Insurance Pool (our insurance provider).

Did You Volunteer with SPS in the past?

If you volunteered with SPS before we may already have a volunteer application on file for you. Refer to the Current & Returning Volunteers page.

What type of volunteer role are you applying for?

At SPS, the volunteer application process varies depending on the setting and area of service:

Category A Volunteer:  All school and remote volunteer roles that support the school, staff or families; can include direct student contact if the volunteer is supervised. District personnel must be on-site and within view if the volunteer will interact with students. Alternatively, another adult approved SPS volunteer must participate in the activity and be present at all times. Standard volunteer onboarding process applies to Category A volunteers. 

Examples: classroom or library assistance, field trip planning, office or recess support, school newsletter editor, family tech support volunteer. 

Category B Volunteer:  All school and remote volunteer roles that involve contact with students without staff or other approved Category A volunteers present. Additional screening is required for Category B volunteers. Please only apply for Category B if SPS staff requested it directly.

Examples: math club coach, breakout room facilitator (in a virtual classroom), one-on-one tutor (including remote/virtual), mentor. 

Field trip chaperones and drivers: Only approved Category A or B volunteers can be recruited to serve in chaperone or volunteer driver roles. Additional steps (chaperones) and screening (drivers) are required – check with the field trip organizer.

Athletic volunteers who work with student-athletes apply directly to the Athletics Department. Please do not proceed with the steps outlined below – instead, athletic volunteers application. Athletic sports include Baseball, Basketball, Bowling, Cross Country, Football, Golf, Gymnastics, Slow Pitch, Soccer, Softball/Fast Pitch, Swim, Tennis, Track, Track & Field, Ultimate Frisbee (Middle School only), Volleyball, Wrestling.

All other sports coaches are onboarded by the school using the process below with extra requirements (CPR & First Aid, Concussion and Sudden Cardiac Arrest Courses, national background check).

Garden volunteers and Self-Help Projects volunteers do not complete this volunteer application process. Instead, please review instructions from Self Help Projects.

2022-23 School Year COVID-19 Safety Requirements

During the COVID-19 pandemic, in addition to steps 1-4 listed below, volunteers are required to complete an online Health & Safety Course and show proof of receiving the COVID-19 vaccination.

  • Complete the 23-min Health & Safety Course
  • Answer test questions during the course and on your volunteer application. 
  • School staff will verify your vaccination card in person.

Those requirements do not apply to remote volunteers.

June 2022 update: At this time Governor Inslee’s vaccination mandate for K-12 staff and volunteers is still in effect. We will monitor the situation over the summer.

Step 1: Online Training – Preventing Sexual Abuse of Children and Youth

Nationally, 1 in 4 girls & 1 in 6 boys are sexually abused before age 18. Through this course, you will help protect children by learning to recognize and respond to sexual abuse.

Step 2: Volunteer Handbook

Carefully review our online Volunteer Handbook to learn about volunteer responsibilities, rights, and tips for successful volunteering. 

Step 3: Volunteer Application (includes Background Check)

Complete your volunteer application

  • Volunteer applications are processed online. Every year SPS volunteers save 14 trees by completing and/or updating their applications online. Thank you! 
  • Once you are approved as a volunteer in our online system, your application materials will stay active for as long as you volunteer with SPS. Every two years, we will ask whether you would like to stay active, and if so, request your permission to complete a new background check.

Please submit your completed application at least two (2) weeks before the expected volunteer service start date. Background check reports take up to two weeks to clear, occasionally longer.

Determining Your Background Check Type

SPS is committed to providing students with a safe educational environment. This includes ensuring every volunteer and staff member completes a criminal background check.

  • All volunteer applicants are screened by SPS via the state criminal records database. This database is accessible to SPS for free via Washington State Patrol (WATCH). WATCH is sufficient for all Category A volunteers who have lived in our state for the past three years. 
  • WATCH does not produce criminal records outside of our state, and unfortunately, the federal government does not provide an equivalent database. Therefore, Category A volunteers who lived in other states or countries during the last three years must purchase their own background check from our partner vendor Sterling Volunteers – the fee is usually $21. 

Additional screening for Category B volunteers

  • If your volunteer role will involve spending unsupervised time with students (including as a remote/online volunteer), or you will chaperone 3+ day overnight field trips, you must complete the national background check even if you are a long-time resident of Washington.
  • School staff will also check the references provided on your volunteer application.

Selecting an incorrect background check type will delay your approval. 

Financial burden

Every parent or caretaker should have the opportunity to participate in their student’s education. If you face barriers to completing the online background check, please review “Background check affordability” for information about assistance.

Background check results

  • If your state background check is clear, you will be notified immediately via email.
  • If you purchase a national or international background check, you will receive your results directly from Sterling Volunteers, usually within a few days.
  • If there are any records on your background check or your report shows possible duplicates (criminal records of other Washington State residents who have similar names to yours), the school volunteer program liaison will process your background check manually. Expect an additional week for processing. 

Please note: While all volunteers must be screened through the background check, a criminal history does not automatically disqualify an applicant from volunteering in the schools. If you would like to know if your criminal records may affect your ability to volunteer with SPS, please review this flow chart used by schools to determine eligibility.

Step 4: School Approval

Before your first volunteer shift, the school volunteer program liaison must verify your information in person or through an online meeting (for remote volunteers). Please have the following available: 

  • Government-issued photo ID
  • Proof of 3-year residency in Washington State if your Washington State ID was issued less than 3 years ago and you chose Category A role. Examples: older/expired ID, lease agreement, utility bill, school records. Make sure this document was issued at least three years ago and features your full name and a Washington State address. If your child attends the school, office staff may be able to review your child’s school registration records (not all staff have access to them). 
  • Proof of COVID-19 vaccination (for in-person volunteers).

During this last step, if the school volunteer program liaison confirms your identity and verifies that you selected the correct background check type on your volunteer application, they will add your name to the list of approved volunteers for that school. 

If you have questions about your application or background check,  call the school office or email the school’s volunteer program liaison.