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    Science Behind Re-opening Schools
    Posted on 05/18/2020

    Seattle Public Schools is prioritizing the health and safety of our students, staff, and community by using a data-driven approach in planning a return to school buildings, in partnership with Public Health- King County & Seattle and policymakers. COVID-19 has drastically altered the way schools operate. As we plan for summer school and the fall semester, we are considering a variety of models and approaches to support student learning and the wellbeing of our community.

    Since the beginning of the COVID-19 response, the scientific community has learned so much about the virus. We know social distancing matters, we know you are contagious a few days prior to experiencing symptoms, and we know face coverings help prevent transmission of the virus.

    At Seattle Public Schools, we have learned that we are most effective when we work together as a community and collaborate across departments. We have also learned the complexity of COVID-19 requires us to be flexible but measured in our decision-making as our understanding of the virus continues to change. This includes examining existing frameworks and watching how other areas of the world are returning students to school.

    Child care sites in Seattle, for example, have implemented measures to reduce the risk of transmission, which include temperature checks, strict hand washing, limiting access to those allowed onsite, social distancing in classrooms, and reducing the size of groups to 10. These vital child care sites for essential workers allow those on the front lines to continue to report to work during the Governor's "Stay Home, Stay Healthy" order.

    Countries like Denmark and Norway are using a similar framework as students return to school in small groups of around 15 students. While South Africa is re-entering students by grade over selected dates at two-week intervals.

    Another option is providing in-classroom instruction for targeted populations of students. This could include students who have the most difficulty accessing education or students furthest from educational justice, while providing online or remote instruction for the rest of the student population.

    As schools across the world reopen, we are seeing a variety of approaches tailored to the needs of their community. Seattle Public Schools has worked to support the basic needs and health of our staff and students and will continue to prioritize our community's needs and work with Public Health to make informed decisions based in science, data, and compassion.

    Once we receive guidance from Public Health and the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction on a safe return to school buildings, we will provide more updates on the process for returning to school.

    On Wednesday, May 13, Superintendent Juneau hosted a virtual town hall meeting with Carrie Nicholson, Seattle Public Schools assistant manager of student health services, and Sara Rigel from Public Health- Seattle & King County’s School & Child Care Task Force to talk about the science and considerations behind re-opening schools.

    Watch a recording of the May 13 Virtual Town Hall Meeting on Facebook.

    Learn More About Fall 2020 Planning

    Visit our Fall Student Reentry Scenarios and Planning webpage for more information.