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    In-Person Instruction Update
    Posted on 12/17/2020

    In-Person Instruction Update

    The health and wellbeing of our students, staff, and community is our top priority and we are working to strike the balance between providing critical in-person instruction and learning opportunities for students while navigating the changing context of COVID-19 transmission rates in our community and guidance from Public Health.

    At the School Board retreat on Dec. 5 staff presented a recommendation to bring back more students for in-person instruction. In response to the December 16 revised Washington State Department of Health K-12 Toolkit and Guidance, staff modified the recommendations.

    Staff presented the revised recommendations to the board on December 17 from 4 - 6 p.m. during a special Board Meeting. Below is a summary of the approved recommendations and adjustments to the district's current in-person learning model.

    Summary of Current Recommendations

    • Beginning on March 1 bring back all preschool – 1st grade students, up to five days per week. Preschool students will attend in alignment with their typical schedule.
    • Before or on March 1, bring back students enrolled in Special Education Moderate to Intensive Service Pathways: Focus, Moderate/Intensive, Social Emotional Learning, Distinct, Medically Fragile, Bridges, Preschool (Developmental/Seattle Pre-School Program), full time. K-12 students will attend Monday – Friday and preschool students will attend in alignment with their typical schedule.
    • Continue to provide in-person services to individual students that are enrolled in the Resource or Access service pathway and who have had an IEP team determine in-person services are needed to meet their IEP goals.
    • Prioritize supports for students with 504s, experiencing homelessness, English Learner newcomers, and students attending Bilingual Orientation Centers through partnerships with Community Based Organizations, outdoor education pilots, and summer programming.
    • Continue to provide a remote learning option for PreK-1 and Special Education families who aren't ready to send their students back in-person this school year.
    • Continue the remote learning model for all other students not listed above until further notice.

    What does School Board approval mean?

    The board's formal approval of revisions to the OSPI re-entry plan authorizes staff to begin bargaining new working conditions with the Seattle Education Association, configuring classrooms at 75 elementary and K-8 schools to support a 1:15 teacher-student ratio, expansion of special education services in secondary schools, hiring of additional bus drivers and custodial staff, and planning for an in-person nutrition services model.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Why did staff recommend prioritizing PreK-1st grade and students receiving special education services?

    PreK through 1st grade are critical development and learning years for young children. Students in these grade bands learn through inquiry and social connections supported by responsive educator-student interactions. It is difficult for virtual learning to replicate the academic and social environment of a classroom for young students. The American Pediatrics Association states excessive technology time for young children has shown a decrease in their critical-thinking skills, imagination, and attention span. All families, but especially the historically marginalized and economically vulnerable, count on the partnership of schools to provide safe, nurturing learning spaces outside the home. Returning to in-person school supports students furthest from educational justice accessing the high-quality instruction they deserve to thrive and learn. In addition, students receiving special education services need to make progress on their individualized goals – for some this is very challenging in a remote setting. For these reasons, and in alignment DOH guidance and with the values surfaced by the June 2020 engagement teams, staff recommended the school board prioritizes in-person learning for this subset of students.

    Why can't SPS bring PreK-1 students back now?

    Operational requirements (i.e. setting up all classrooms) and safety training for all staff will take at least two months to prepare - from the time a model is approved until the first day of increased in-person instruction.

    What about other grades and middle and high school students?

    With the school board's approval of Resolution No. 2020/21-4.1, we will work towards bringing back approximately 9000 students (1/6 of our student population) focused on a number of factors - developmental and academic needs of our youngest learners, current number of available staff to provide up to five days of instruction, for full grade bands from PreK-1st grade; and other operations and safety requirements. As we bring back in-person learning for PreK-1st grade and students enrolled in moderate to intensive special education pathways, we will learn and evaluate the potential of scaling in-person instruction to more students and in alignment with the new DOH recommendations.

    How will the district confirm enrollment for in-person services?

    The Enrollment Department will be sending an intent to enroll survey the first week of January to all PreK-1st grade families and families with students enrolled in moderate or intensive special education pathways. This survey will be supported by direct outreach. Our goal will be to reach 100% of families with students identified for in-person learning.

    What has the district already done to prepare?

    • A staffing analysis (teachers, custodians, bus drivers, and nutrition services) to determine if we have enough staff to provide full time support for our youngest learners and students receiving special educations services.
    • A physical capacity analysis to ensure we can accommodate a 1:15 ratio, or less, in our elementary and K-8 schools.
    • Purchase of PPE and other safety resources to support an increase in in-person learning.
    • As Public Health, Labor & Industry or other government agencies have provided new health guidance, SPS has reviewed our protocols, training, and materials to ensure we are upholding the values and commitments outlined in the SEA/SPS MOU. Read how we have developed protocols to prepare for in-person services: developed protocols to prepare for in-person services.
    • Mask fitting and training plan for in-person teachers and other staff; identification of a protected healthcare room and staffing model at each school.
    • An analysis of the HVAC systems at all 75 elementary and K-8 schools and plan to address any issues prior to opening.

    Staff are also planning additional ways to support students including creating a bridge between the 2020-21 and 2021-22 school year - summer programming and Extended School Year (ESY for students with IEPs). As the weather improves in spring and summer, more outdoor pilots and instruction may also be offered, which would offer a balance between core academics, enrichment, and the personal connection students and families are requesting. Learn more about Outdoor Education pilot.

    If you have additional questions, please email and staff will add to the FAQ.