COVID-19 Health and Safety

Seattle Public Schools COVID-19 Health and Safety

School Closed or Shifting to Remote Learning

list of schools that have a schedule change due to high absentee or quarantine rates.


What are the vaccination rates for SPS schools? 

As of January 19, 2022, 78% of SPS students have had at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and 69% of students have had two. The highest vaccination rate in a school is 94%, while the lowest is 9%. Of 106 schools, 79 have a greater than 50% vaccination rate and 27 schools have less than a 50% vaccination rate. 

Vaccine clinics at SPS Schools: The district continues to offer COVID-19 vaccine clinics for our school community in partnership with trusted medical providers.

SPS COVID-19 Dashboard

Confirmed cases at Seattle Public Schools displayed by region, week, and role are displayed on the COVID Data Dashboard.

How does SPS share COVID-19 tracking data? 

Since school resumed on January 3, SPS has been closely tracking data on student and staff absences, substitute teacher availability, and positive COVID-19 cases.

We update the COVID-19 dashboard with positive COVID-19 cases by school. Refreshed weekly on Mondays by the end of the day, this dashboard disaggregates (dividing data into parts) cases by region, week, and role to provide an understanding of the pandemic across the district. Confirmed case exposure does not mean the transmission occurred within Seattle Public Schools sites.

Data is gathered from four primary sources: self-reporting, SPS regional testing clinics, PCR testing at 104 schools, and school-based rapid antigen testing.  

Contact Tracing and Quarantine Requirements

How does SPS support contact tracing? 

SPS has seven central nursing staff and 12 contracted contact notifiers.

School leaders, nurses, and the Protected Health Care Room staff person share the names of students who are positive and those who might be close contacts with the central team. Schools provide general notification of confirmed cases and SPS partner Columbia Safety reaches out to confirmed individuals and close contacts with guidance and dates for isolation or quarantining.

The central nursing team prioritizes contact investigation for classrooms and spaces where students are less likely to follow protocols including consistent masking. The central nursing team also supports data analysis on classroom or school transmission and necessary transitions to remote learning.  

How does SPS define a close contact? 

In an indoor classroom or an outdoor setting, if students and staff are properly masked and can stay at least 3 feet apart, the Department of Health does NOT consider that a close contact. Only close contacts that are unvaccinated need to quarantine per DOH requirements.  

Does SPS notify close contacts? 

Yes. SPS continues to notify close contacts. From mid-October through mid-December 2021, SPS notified 2,500 close contacts of exposure. From January 3-13, another 2,000 close contacts have been notified.  

When should students quarantine? 

Your student does not need to quarantine if they are 5-17 years old and have completed the primary series of COVID -19 vaccine (two doses of Pfizer) or 18 years or older and have received all recommended vaccine doses, including boosters. 

They should wear a well-fitting mask around others for 10 days from the date of their last close contact with someone with COVID-19, get tested at least five days after they last had contact with someone with COVID-19, and continue to monitor symptoms and test immediately if symptoms develop.

Should you quarantine if you have been fully vaccinated? 

You do not need to quarantine if you are fully vaccinated or if you had a positive COVID-19 case within the last 90 days. 

If you aren’t fully vaccinated, how long do you need to quarantine?  

If you are not fully vaccinated and if you have not received a recommended booster shot when eligible, you will need to quarantine for at least five (5) days after your last contact with a person who has COVID-19. Documentation of a negative test result must be provided to the school before returning after a required quarantine. 

Read quarantine requirements.

COVID-19 Testing

Students can take a COVID test:

  • At their school
  • Regional testing sites

Student assigned school: Rapid antigen testing is available at each school, and results are available usually within 15 minutes with parent/guardian consent. PCR testing is available at each school for students and staff who are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, and those results can take 24-72 hours based on demand.

Regional testing sites: SPS also offers regional testing at several schools for students and staff.

How soon can students return to school after testing positive? 

Following Washington Department of Health and Public Health – Seattle & King County’s guidance for people who test positive for COVID-19, students and staff can return to school after isolating for five full days if they have no symptoms or if their symptoms have subsided and have had no fever for the last 24 hours without medication.

Students and staff should wear well-fitting masks and continue to follow safety protocols (i.e., social distancing, hand washing). Students leaving isolation don’t need a negative test to return to school. Read more about SPS quarantine requirements.

Is SPS considering implementing screening testing for students? 

Weekly testing of any kind requires a steady supply of tests and a reliable group of staff and/or trained volunteers to help register participants, administer the tests, process at a lab, and report results to DOH. One method of implementing screening testing is pooled or batch testing. This requires two series of tests – one round for a batch or cohort of students and another round of individual tests if the batch or cohort tests positive.

Seattle Public Schools has identified a vendor who can provide the courier, resulting, and reporting workforce. SPS also has a MOA with Seattle Education Association to pilot this type of testing.

The challenge is that with the new isolation and quarantine guidance, the pooled testing process may take too long to be an effective testing strategy. By the time students get results their isolation or quarantine period may be close to over.  As we learn more about COVID and the new variants, we are refining our testing and mitigation strategies. It is our goal to invest in testing strategies that align with updated health guidance and policy and remain hopeful that home test kits can be part of the solution.  

Will SPS implement a test-to-stay program? 

Yes, Seattle Public Schools will begin implementing Test-to-Stay in five schools over the next two to three weeks. Invitations to schools have already been distributed. Test-to-stay is a strategy to keep unvaccinated students who are not showing symptoms in school after they have been identified as a close contact. With twice weekly testing, we can minimize time out of school while keeping everyone safe. 

 SPS has identified an outside vendor to help implement the strategy by mid-February. Schools with high rates of unvaccinated students have been invited to participate in the pilot.  

Has SPS considered a pooled testing protocol? 

Pooled testing screens a group of people together, like a classroom, on a regular basis to proactively identify positive cases. If there is a positive result, then that group is tested on an individual basis. Pooled testing has been used effectively to screen for the Delta variant. It is less effective with the Omicron variant, given how quickly transmission occurs. 

Masks and COVID-19 mitigation

One of the best defenses against COVID-19 is the correct and consistent wearing of face coverings or masks. All staff, students, and visitors are required to wear a mask when on SPS property or events.

Families of students with a medical condition, mental health condition, developmental or cognitive condition, or disability that prevents wearing a face covering may request an exemption. Read more about the district mask guidance.

What can we learn from other school districts around the nation? 

School districts throughout the country have struggled with a national labor shortage, adequate supplies of high-quality masks and COVID tests, and evolving guidance from state and local public health.

The districts that have stayed open while keeping staff and students safe have been proactive with offering vaccine clinics, making testing widely available, and implementing layers of protection in buildings – strategies consistent with SPS practices. 

What is SPS’ masking requirement? 

All staff, students, and visitors are required to wear a mask when on SPS property or events. However, due to the highly transmissible omicron variant, the CDC is recommending enhanced masking to limit spread. Using these enhanced masks is voluntary and SPS will be supplying them temporarily during the Omicron variant surge.   

SPS Mask Supply

SPS currently supplies three-layer medical/surgical masks for all staff and students who need them (more than 1,000,000 this year so far). We also supply enhanced masks like KN95 and N95 masks to some staff who are working in high transmission risk settings in alignment with Labor & Industries requirements.    

SPS also began dispersing its current supply of KN95 masks to each school and John Stanford Center Educational Excellence (district central office) so that all staff who want a KN95 mask have access to one. We have identified state and local resources for additional enhanced masks and are working to bring more to SPS as quickly as possible.  

We have also requested enhanced masks for students from local and state officials. While we have requested half a million masks, we will prioritize enhanced student masks for schools with lower student vaccination rates. As soon as we receive confirmation of availability, we will communicate directly with school leaders and staff.   

Virtual, Remote, and In-Person Learning

What communication will families receive if their school switches to remote learning? 

If a school is closed or changes instructional model (remote or in-person learning) families at affected schools will receive an email and/or phone voice message. Once the message is shared with families it will be posted to the school website, the district announcement of schools that have a schedule change, and district social media channels.

What metrics are most important for deciding if instruction should transition to remote learning?  

SPS’ continuity of operations plan identifies several interrelated factors that inform the decision to move a classroom or a school building to remote instruction. Those include student absenteeism due to COVID, staff absences, substitute teacher availability, school leader coverage, and operations support in transportation, custodial, and culinary services. 

How are decisions about in-person or remote learning or school closures made? 

The superintendent’s senior staff meet throughout the day to review the data, engage with school leaders, and develop recommendations to the Superintendent or his designee for supporting schools or moving them to remote instruction.  

How do I help my student access remote instruction? 

Your school will provide a letter to families with information about schedules, lunch pick-up, and any related activity. The letter will also give you clear information about how to connect to the learning platform your students’ classroom is using. 

Does SPS offer virtual learning option 

SPS offers a Virtual Option Pilot Program (VOPP) with limited enrollment capacity. The 6-12 grade VOPP application for the 2021-22 school year is open, however, the program is at full capacity. All new applicants will be placed on a waitlist.  

Can Virtual Option Pilot Program (VOPP) students return to their school in 2022-23? 

VOPP students are expected to commit to a one year stay in this program (ending June 2022).

Students attending choice schools: However, students enrolled in a choice school may be guaranteed to return to that school only if they have attended through the end of March 2022 (3rd quarter). Short of this commitment, it is subject to availability to return to their choice school upon requesting to transfer back. Students are guaranteed a spot at their neighborhood school to return if their choice school is not available. 

Students attending attendance-area schools (neighborhood schools): Students are guaranteed a spot at their neighborhood school. 

How do you accommodate high-risk families who wish to keep their child at home temporarily until school cases come under control?  

SPS recognizes these are complicated times for families. Families are encouraged to communicate directly with their students’ school regarding student absences.  

Recent Announcements

View all recent COVID-19 news posts.

All District News

COVID Testing for Students
COVID Testing for Students
Students can take a test at their school or at a regional testing site.
Safe Travel Plans
As we approach mid-winter break, it is a good time to review health safety travel guidance. …
COVID Vaccines for Students
COVID Vaccines for Students
Seattle Public Schools is offering several vaccine clinics for students and staff in January.
Jump Start for New Kindergarten Students
Jump Start is for new SPS kindergartners to feel safe, supported and ready to learn.
Response to SEA
District officials are working with all labor partners to provide in-school learning while keeping our students and staff safe and healthy.   …