Fall 2021 Health and Safety Information

Summary: Next school year, some health and safety protocols will remain, others will go away, and new mitigation strategies will be implemented.

Returning to In-Person Learning for 2021-2022 from Seattle Public Schools (SPSTV) Vimeo.

Family Letter August 27

We’re less than one week away from the start of the 2021-22 school year. We are so excited to kick off 180 Days of Excellence with you. 

Limiting High-Risk Activities

Due to high local community COVID-19 transmission and hospitalization rates, we must delay high-risk activities that increase risk of transmission for the first two months of school. The following activities will be paused for September and October: 

  • Day field trips to indoor locations  
  • In-person principal chats and all family meetings. Meetings will need to be held remotely through the end of October. 
  • After-school in-person events with families 

Remote Family Meetings

In response to an increase in COVID-19 in our community, from September 1-October 29 all SPS parent meetings with SPS staff will be held virtually via Microsoft Teams. This means curricula nights, etc. will also be remote. Schools will share more information soon. 

This impacts preschool and kindergarten Family Connection conferences, which will take place September 1-3 and PreK/K Connects meetings and conferences September 7-8. These one-on-one meetings are designed to welcome families to school and provide a safe environment for families to speak freely with the teacher, share information about their child, and ask questions. 

Your child’s teacher will send a meeting invitation and directions to join the virtual meeting. 

IEP meetings will continue to be held virtually, just like last year, until October 29. Families may connect with their student’s case manager, teachers, or school staff via Microsoft Teams or phone. 

First Day of School

September 1 for grades 1-12. September 9 for kindergarten and preschool. While September 1 is a Wednesday, the first day of school will not be an early release day. The early release Wednesday schedule will begin on Sept. 8 for 1-12 grade students. 

Device Distribution

Schools will be distributing devices for students during the first week of school. SPS is a 1:1 device district, meaning that we will be providing each student with a grade-appropriate iPad or laptop. Your student’s school will share more details on distribution before the start of school. Learn more about device distribution.  

Health and Safety at Lunchtime

Each school has developed a lunch plan that follows health and safety protocols. SPS can safely implement lunch plans that allow all students to eat inside, and we are taking additional precautions as COVID-19 Delta variant transmission rises in our broader community. To support healthy school communities, we have asked school leaders to review their lunch plans and consider taking additional steps if possible, including:  

  • Increasing the number of lunch periods  
  • Adding additional indoor lunch spaces  
  • Assigning set groups of students to spaces or zones. Keeping set groups of students together will support contact tracing and help reduce the need to quarantine larger groups of students  
  • Adding extra time to the lunch/eating window to support supervision of a safe lunch for students.  
  • Having their Building Safety Team support lunch, including reviewing and monitoring lunch plans – what is working, what is challenging, and determining solutions.  

We have also asked school leaders to consider providing more outdoor spaces for meals. However, this is not a permanent solution for many schools. Not all schools have a safe, appropriate space to hold outdoor lunches. Learn more about lunch safety measures

Contingency Planning

We know families and staff are concerned about the Delta variant and our unvaccinated students. We continue to work in alignment with the Department of Health (DOH) and Public Health requirements and recommendations to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and keep our school communities healthy. If COVID-19 transmission rates continue to increase significantly in our community, our schools and district will be affected.  You can help us support a safe return to school buildings by continuing to follow the guidance of public health experts, including wearing a mask, getting vaccinated, and limiting non-essential activities if not vaccinated.   

We are organized and prepared to respond to the changing context and needs of students, staff, and families. Learn more about our contingency planning, including how learning is supported if students, classrooms, or schools need to quarantine. 

Virtual Learning: SPS is offering a Virtual Option Pilot Program (VOPP) for elementary (K-5) students. While the application for K-5 VOPP closed Friday, August 13, families can apply to be on the waitlist. For students who are unable to enroll in VOPP, we have identified several alternative online learning options that are state approved and available at no cost to our students. The state-approved online programs are available to any student in SPS. If a student disenrolls from SPS, students will not be guaranteed a space at their option school next year. Learn more about virtual learning options

2021-22 School Year: 180 Days of Excellence

Please visit our resources webpage for a full list of Health and Safety Protocols that will be in place for the coming 2021-22 school year.

More Resources

Dear Families:

Seattle Public Schools is excited to kick off 180 Days of Excellence – the number of days in the 2021-22 school year. Here’s what you need to know:

First Day of School: September 1 for grades 1-12. September 9 for kindergarten and preschool.

Bell Schedule: Most schools will resume the same start and end times that were in place before the pandemic. You can find these on your school home page or on the district-wide bell schedule page.


We know that there is concern about safety for students eating lunch at school. We share these concerns and our school leaders have spent the summer developing lunch plans appropriate to their buildings. Not all schools have a safe, appropriate space to hold lunch outdoors and for any school, there will be times when lunch would have to occur indoors such as snow, extreme wind, and unsafe outdoor air quality (e.g., smoke). 

SPS can safely implement lunch plans that allow all students to eat inside with use of effective mitigation strategies, such as:

  • Limiting time that students are sitting at lunch
  • Supporting indoor effective air change so that we are either changing or cleaning the air 5-6 times per hour for excellent ventilation.
  • Maximizing physical distancing to the extent possible.
  • Adding lunch periods to reduce the number of students
  • Organizing students so they will not be facing directly across from each other while eating/drinking. They will either be staggered or facing the same direction.

In addition, schools will build a common understanding of good habits while eating lunch:

  • Wash your hands before and after lunch
  • Only remove your mask when you are eating and drinking. Pull your mask to the side when you take a drink or a bite, then put your mask right back on.
  • Use quiet indoor voices while at lunch. Talking will be limited to when student masks are on.

Each school will communicate their lunch plan to the school community. Please help us prepare by talking with your student about these habits prior to the first day of school. 


For the 2021-22 school year, all students who qualify will receive district transportation. There may be delays on some yellow bus routes during the start of school while our vendor, First Student, hires and trains more drivers. The Transportation Department is actively working on alternative options to increase access.

In the event of a bus delay, Transportation will send a voice or text message to the contact number on file for your student. If you have moved or have a new contact phone number, please update your student’s information with our Enrollment team and email transdept@seattleschools.org with your student’s ID number and the new address or phone number. This way, we can update your student’s route and contact information to ensure the proper bus route assignment, and that voice or text messages are sent to the right contact number.

All high school students and some eligible middle school students will receive an ORCA card. Students eligible for ORCA Cards may pick them up from their school during orientation or on the first day of school. For information about eligibility for ORCA cards and yellow bus transportation, please contact transportation via Let’s Talk.


Students in high school and middle school will be able to participate in athletics.

Health and Safety

The health and safety of our school communities continues to be our top priority, especially as we monitor the COVID-19 Delta variant. If COVID transmission rates increase significantly in our community and region, we will be prepared to respond in partnership with Public Health – Seattle & King County, our local public health authority.

We are continuing to follow the guidance of public health experts on what effective strategies work in our buildings.


Vaccinations for Students: SPS will continue to promote vaccinations. As soon as the COVID-19 vaccine is approved for children under 12, we will partner with medical providers to hold in-school clinics. The State Board of Health, which sets the Washington state immunization requirements for students, has not currently required the COVID-19 vaccine for students.

Vaccinations Required for Staff and Volunteers:

 On August 12, Superintendent Brent Jones directed that all non-represented SPS staff be vaccinated against COVID-19. He also directed the SPS central office team to immediately begin bargaining with all our labor partners to establish this mandate for each of our represented staff. Volunteers and community partner employees will also be required to be vaccinated to reduce unnecessary risk to students and staff.

On August 18, Governor Jay Inslee announced a new directive legally requiring all K–12 school district employees to get a COVID-19 vaccination or be approved for a medical or religious exemption by October 18, 2021. Read more about this directive.

COVID-19 Testing

SPS is partnering with Health Commons Project to provide free, in-school COVID-19 testing for students and staff who have been exposed to COVID-19 or have COVID-like symptoms. We are evaluating the broader use of testing and more information will be available in late August.

Response to COVID-19 Cases

If there is a positive COVID-19 case in a school, all families with students in the same classroom will be notified. Staff will work with Public Health – Seattle & King County to manage contact tracing – identifying and informing all individuals that came into close contact with the person diagnosed with COVID-19, and to provide next steps.

The State of Washington requires Seattle Public Schools to provide full-time, in-person learning this coming school year.

Local and state public health experts have not established metrics or transmission thresholds upon which the state would recommend a return to 100% virtual school. Closure of a school or classroom will be done in partnership and in response to the expert guidance of Public Health.


Masks are required for all students, staff, visitors, and volunteers. Schools will have extra masks on hand for students who may need them. Check out our video on choosing and wearing a mask for students.

Air Quality

We will maintain air quality by managing air circulation and using high-performance air filters. MERV 13 filters have been installed in building HVAC systems that can accommodate them, and are being supplemented, as necessary, with free-standing HEPA filters in classrooms and other spaces.


Classrooms and common spaces will be cleaned and disinfected each day.

Physical Distancing

Following state Department of Health guidelines, students will distance three feet, or to the extent possible and reasonable, in classrooms and will maximize distance between students to the extent possible and reasonable in common spaces. Staff are required to distance six feet in all areas of the school as required by Labor and Industries.

Hand Washing

Regular hand washing is important to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and schools will continue to teach students proper hand washing, reinforce positive behaviors, and provide adequate supplies. All students will wash their hands prior to and after lunch, before and after recess, after using the restroom, and throughout the day. Hand sanitizer will be made available when hand washing is not possible.

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