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Planning for Increased COVID-19 Transmission in our Community
We know families and staff are concerned about the Delta variant and our unvaccinated students. We continue to work diligently with Public Health, the state, and the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and keep our school communities healthy. If COVID-19 transmission rates increase significantly in our community, our schools and district will be affected. We are organized and prepared to respond to the changing context and needs of students, staff, and families.
Frequently Asked Questions
Who determines closure of a classroom or school in response to confirmed COVID-19 cases?
Seattle Public Schools in partnership with Public Health – Seattle & King County. If there is an infectious disease outbreak, including COVID-19, Seattle Public Schools follows the authority of the local public health agency, Public Health – Seattle & King County.
Our central team of experienced school nurses serves as the liaison to Public Health in supporting all school-related contact tracing of students or staff with COVID-19. Public Health provides guidance to the team about isolation and quarantine requirements and collaborates with the district on decisions to close classrooms or the school building due to COVID-19 outbreaks.
This last year, our students, staff, and families followed our strong health and safety protocols and as a result Seattle Public Schools did not experience any widespread outbreaks. We are committed to continuing to follow these protocols with fidelity and partnering with Public Health to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
How is the closure of a classroom or school communicated?
If a classroom or school does need to close, Seattle Public Schools will work in partnership with Public Health to communicate directly to the school leader, all staff, and families. Communication will be provided through a variety of channels including direct email, website alerts, translated robocalls and texts.
If a full class needs to quarantine or a school is directed to temporarily close in response to COVID-19 transmission, how will student learning be supported?
If a full classroom or school closure is required, students will shift to the 100% remote model used during the 2020-21 school year.
How will families be informed of individual confirmed cases?
SPS will continue to inform families whenever there is a confirmed case in their student’s classroom or if their student is exposed to someone confirmed with COVID-19 in a variety of settings including the school bus, athletics, common area, etc.
How will student learning be supported if a student or multiple students in a class need to quarantine?
A continuation of instructional support will be provided for students who need to quarantine. Classroom teachers individually, as a coordinated department or grade level team, etc. must share learning expectations with students and parents/guardians via a district-supported learning management system such as Schoology or See Saw about the instructional plan for the coming week. The posted plan should include assignments/homework, learning objectives, required activities, and assessments, with any associated due dates, and may include links to resources. Classroom teachers may choose to supplement their communications through other modes of communication such as email, newsletters, and packets.
Classroom teachers are expected to respond to all parent/guardian and student communications within two business days when practicable, with the understanding that interpreter involvement may take longer. When students are absent for an extended period, educators will work with students and their parents/guardians to ensure they have access to the curriculum and supports that best fit their needs. For students who need additional support or enrichment, educators will identify appropriate activities and assignments to the greatest extent reasonably possible.
Who has the authority to move the entire district to 100% remote or a hybrid model (part time in-person/part time remote)?
SPS is legally required to provide full-time, in-person learning for all interested students during the 2021-22 school year.
While the district superintendent has the authority under state law (RCW 28A.335.020 and RCW 28A.150.290(2)(a)) to close a school or schools on temporary basis in case of emergency (including epidemics), the ultimate authority for returning to a remote learning model lies with the state.
To transition SPS to a 100% remote model would require an emergency order from the governor. To shift to a full hybrid model would require a policy change from the Office of Superintendent of Public Education (OSPI), the state education agency.
What will happen if state or OSPI guidance changes and school districts are directed to shift instructional models?
The district would implement the 2020-21 100% remote model if mandated by the state and implement components of the 2020-21 hybrid model if necessary and approved by OSPI. Transportation issues associated with the hybrid model would need to be addressed. These agreements are part of the 2021-22 MOU with SEA.
Can in-person students that need to quarantine temporarily enroll in the K-5 Virtual Option Pilot Program (VOPP)?
No. The Virtual Option Pilot Program is a comprehensive educational program and has been designed to support enrolled students.
Just like a physical school or program, VOPP is a school community consisting of classes of students and dedicated teachers. It is not a temporary solution for students that need to quarantine. Students that need to quarantine will be supported by their assigned teacher or teachers and receive remote instructional via the district supported learning management systems (Schoology and See Saw).
How is SPS preventing the spread of COVID-19 including the Delta variant?
Together, we have been able to curb the spread of COVID-19 in our schools by using effective, layered preventive strategies including masks, regular hand washing, daily cleaning, physical distancing, strong ventilation, vaccines, and contact tracing.
These strong protocols will continue in 2021-22 and we will be adding diagnostic COVID-19 testing. SPS is partnering with Health Commons Project and DOH to provide free, in school COVID-19 testing for students and staff who have been exposed to COVID or have COVID-like symptoms. Testing will help us prevent the spread of COVID-19 as well as minimize lost instructional time for students that need to quarantine.
SPS is also evaluating broader use of testing and more information will be made available over the coming weeks. Learn more about the district’s health and safety protocols including new school-based diagnostic testing.
Vaccines are a critical strategy in our fight against COVID including the Delta variant. All SPS staff will be vaccinated by October 18. On August 18, Governor Inslee announced that the State of Washington’s COVID-19 vaccine requirement will be extended to K-12 educators, school staff, coaches, bus drivers, school volunteers and others working in school facilities. Our central office team is working with our labor partners to implement this state mandate for all our staff. Read more about this directive.
In Seattle, Youth vaccine (12-19) rate is 67-71% and adult is 82-86% depending on areas of city. Our community has come together to help support a healthy and safe return to school. Seattle Public Schools remain committed to making vaccinations accessible to staff, students, and families at school sites and in the community. Information about vaccination clinics is shared in our weekly newsletter, School Beat.
Will the COVID-19 vaccine be required for eligible students in Fall 2021?
No. The State Board of Health, who has the sole authority to set immunization requirements for students, is not currently requiring the COVID-19 vaccine for children in school settings. However, we encourage vaccination among all eligible students. School staff and volunteers will all be vaccinated by October 18, 2021.
What is the process for requiring the COVID-19 vaccine for students?
The State Board of Health (SBOH) may formally consider requiring the COVID-19 vaccine for children in schools if a vaccine is licensed and recommended by federal authorities. The SBOH reviews vaccines that are fully licensed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and recommended by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP).
Once fully licensed COVID-19 vaccine(s) are recommended by the ACIP, the SBOH could convene a technical advisory committee to review the vaccine(s) against the state’s immunization criteria. If the vaccine(s) passed the criteria and recommendations of the committee, the SBOH would consider adding it to the state’s list of required immunizations through a formal action to begin rule making at a future Board meeting.
Can a local school district decide to mandate the vaccine for students, even if the state doesn’t?
No. State law (RCW 28A.210.140) provides full authority to the State Board of Health to establish the procedural and substantive requirements for immunizations for students.
Will SPS support school-based vaccination clinics for students under 12 years old when the vaccination becomes available?
Yes. Throughout our pandemic response we have worked to increase access and reduce barriers to vaccinations.