Skip To ContentSkip To Content

    Return to In-Person Learning FAQ

    An illustration of a school buildingOn March 1, students in preschool, kindergarten, and 1st grade and students enrolled in Special Education Intensive Service Pathways will have the opportunity to return for in-person instruction. Read more about the Return to In-person Learning for Select Students.

    Frequently Asked Questions


    Bargaining Updates

    The current MOU requires that we negotiate with the Seattle Education Association any changes to the current remote instructional model. Read about SEA and SPS bargaining updates.

    Since June 2020, educators and school leaders have been engaged in planning for the 2020-21 school year including the creation of shared values and prioritization of students who will return first to in-person learning. Learn more about the June Engagement Teams and recommendations.

    Educators were also engaged during the development of our current MOU with SEA and a Re-Entry Leadership Team. The Re-Entry Leadership Team, that includes SEA leadership, reconvened in November and recommended students remain remote until March 1. Prior to the December break, three public meeting were held with the School Board to discuss staff recommendations for bringing back more students for in-person learning.

    We will continue to work with our labor partners and educators in our planning for an increase of students starting March 1. Negotiations for the in-person model are underway.


    Staff Training and Protocols

    These protocols have been carefully developed by the SPS Health Services team, Seattle Education Association Nurses, the SEA/SPS health and safety team and in coordination with Public Health and Labor and Industry and align with the Seattle Public Schools/Seattle Education Association joint Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).

    These protocols are currently under additional review and some will be revised to support an increase of students receiving in-person instruction on March 1.

    Before increased in-person services can begin on March 1, all building-based staff will receive training in the required Health and Safety procedures.


    Intent to Return to In-person Survey Questions

    How long is the Intent to Return to In-Person decision good for?

    The 2020-21 academic year.

    Can I change my decision after March 1?

    The decision a family makes by January 13 (read more about the return to in-person learning survey) will continue through the end of the 2020-21 school year.

    Will there be an appeal process?

    There will be an appeal process for families who have a change in circumstances after January 13. Criteria and a review process are under development. Information will be shared once complete.

    What if I change my mind before March 1?

    January 13 is the deadline so staff can begin to finalize logistics and schedules. If you have completed the survey but change your mind prior to January 13, please retake the survey before the closing date.

    What if I don't respond?

    If we do not hear from your family, the default will be to continue in remote learning. Principals and other school staff will be reaching out to every family we do not receive a survey response from.

    If my child has an IEP, are they automatically enrolled for in-person learning starting on March 1?

    No. Families with students enrolled in an Intensive Service Pathways need to select the in-person model or remote model by completing the Intent to Return In-Person Survey. If no selection is made, the student will complete the year remotely.


    In-person Learning

    Who will be my child's teacher?

    Staffing consistency is a priority, but we are working to match the number of students who want to return in person with the number of staff who can return to teach in person. That’s why the family survey is so important to our planning.

    Will after school programs or additional child care be offered?

    We have dedicated child care at some school sites that will be maintained. We will work to bring back additional child care operations in our buildings. An increase will need to be evaluated on a case by case basis for each school building and provider.

    We are working to balance space availability and ensure health and safety protocols can be met.

    What are the start and end bell times?

    We are working to keep bell times for in-person instruction aligned with start times for remote learning, but we have to assess the impacts for transportation. There may be some changes, based on in-person enrollment and transportation needs. As soon as we have information, we will share it with families.

    Will Athletics resume?

    Washington Interscholastic Activity Association (WIAA), the governing body for high school athletics and activities provided guidance on January 6, 2021 based on the Governor's "Healthy Washington Roadmap to Recovery" plan announcement. Seattle Public Schools has plans to begin sports during Phase 2 as approved by WIAA. The Athletics Department has been working since fall to establish safety protocols and is ready to begin when Seattle enters Phase 2. Communication will go out through the district and schools.

    What will drop-off/pick-up look like?

    There are protocols for how drop-off/pick-up will take place to help guide staff and families on this process at school sites. Daily health screening, social distancing, and wearing face coverings are critical to this process.

    Are vaccines required for students or staff?

    Staff are not currently required to get the COVID-19 vaccine. The Washington Department of Health is creating the phased distribution plan. SPS leadership is advocating for educators, school leaders, and frontline school staff to be prioritized in the vaccination rollout.

    There are currently two COVID-19 vaccines that have been authorized for emergency use by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA). The Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is authorized for emergency use in individuals 18 years and older and the Pfizer- BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is authorized for emergency use in individuals 16 years and older.

    Are students required to wear masks?

    Yes. All students must wear a cloth face covering or acceptable alternative at school. Specific exceptions may apply based on age, development, or disability.

    Will people be required to isolate/quarantine after mid-winter break travel?

    We encourage families to follow health guidelines and limit gatherings or travel.

    We will follow the current guidance regarding travel by the Governor’s Office.

    What if COVID-19 cases worsen?

    Health professionals have provided research to support in-person learning for our youngest learners. The steps we are taking, including the use of small cohorts, will help mitigate the transmission of COVID-19 within our schools during in-person instruction. We will continue to work with our local public health care agency to guide decisions regarding in-person services for our students.

    Will remote learning continue to be synchronous?

    Yes, the remote instruction option will remain in the same format as it currently is, though in some instances a child's teacher may change to another educator from your child's school.

    How many days a week will in-person instruction be provided?

    We will provide the maximum in-person instructional time possible. The number of in person days is dependent on how many students and teachers return. We must meet a 1 to 15 teacher-student ratio, or less, in classrooms to adhere to health and safety guidelines.

    How large will in-person classes be this spring?

    • Kindergarten and first grade classrooms will support up to a 1:15 teacher-student ratio.
    • Preschool will operate in small subgroups with a maximum group size of 6-10 students.
    • Special Education preschool programming will operate at a 1:4 teacher-student ratio.
    • Intensive Service Pathway classes (SEL, Moderate Intensive, Focus, Distinct, and Medically Fragile) will meet the cohort ratio of 1:15 or less.

    Will classrooms of students interact during the school day?

    All classroom cohorts will stay together throughout the day.

    What will classrooms look like?

    Schools and classrooms will look different than past years. Furniture from classrooms has been removed or rearranged to accommodate six feet between each student. We know comfort for our learners is a priority. While activities like circle time and a comfy reading corner aren't possible during the pandemic, we are committed to making sure our classrooms remain joyful and engaging.

    Will preschool through 12th grade students enrolled in Intensive Service Pathways be served at their school?

    Yes. Preschool-12th grade students who are enrolled in an Intensive Service Pathway (SEL, Moderate Intensive, Focus, Distinct, and Medically Fragile) services will be served at their current school.

    Will my child's teacher change?

    Students who return to in-person learning will remain enrolled in their current school, but their teacher may change. Students who remain in remote learning may also have a different teacher. Shifts in staffing will depend on how many families choose in-person and how many families select to remain remote for the 2020-21 school year. Staffing will also depend on the number of teaching staff who request remote working accommodations. We will prioritize staffing consistency as much as possible.

    Where will lunch be eaten?

    In order to reduce interaction between groups of students (classroom cohort), lunch will be eaten in the classroom.

    What adjustments are being made to classrooms and buildings to support health and safety?

    Classrooms across all elementary and K-8 schools are in the process of being re-designed so that all student desks are facing in the same direction and separated by a minimum of six feet between each desk. Ten feet in the front of the classroom is designated for the teacher.

    • Working with five architectural firms, SPS facilities has organized elementary and K-8 schools into "cohort zones" with separate entrances/exits and bathroom facilities to reduce physical interaction between different groups of students.
    • Plexiglass barriers have been installed in the school offices and in some specialized classrooms to support students who may not be able to wear a mask. Central office staff is working directly with school leaders to ensure traffic patterns, signage, cohort zones, and individual classroom designs all meet the needs of our unique school communities.

    How will specialist/PCP classes be managed safely?

    Specialist classes (i.e., art, music, physical education) structures are still being determined and will need to be discussed with the Seattle Education Association and the Principals' Association of Seattle Schools. Students will remain in a classroom cohort of 1:15 all day.

    How will recess be managed and structured?

    Planning for recess is currently underway. Outdoor access and physical movement are important for learning. While we don’t yet have the details of how recess will be structured, students will be kept in their classroom cohort.


    Daily Health Sceenings

    How will daily health screenings for students be conducted?

    Students are required to conduct a daily health screening, known as "attestation," prior to reporting to school. SPS has contracted a vendor to develop an electronic attestation platform. Families will use this platform to answer daily health questions about their student(s) before sending their student(s) to school.

    How will daily health screening for in-person staff be conducted?

    Staff are required to conduct a daily health screening, known as "attestation," prior to reporting to work. SPS has contracted with a vendor to develop an electronic attestation platform. Staff will use this platform to answer daily health questions and attest before reporting to work.


    Student Transportation

    Which students will receive transportation?

    Transportation will be provided for qualified preschool-1st grade students and students receiving special education services, McKinney Vento, and those outside the walk zone. In order to build the bus schedule and routes, qualified families have been asked to indicate if they plan to use district transportation when completing the Intent to Return to In-Person Survey.

    What safety protocols will be followed on the bus?

    • Students will wear a face covering or acceptable alternative in compliance with Public Health recommendations.
    • Windows will be open or adjusted as much as possible to maximize outside air flow.
    • Students will load buses systematically to maintain physical distancing and each student will be assigned a seat to maintain a seating assignment for each bus run.
    • After each route, staff will clean high touch areas. The whole bus will be sanitized after the last run every day back at bus lot.

    Bus drivers and bus monitors will wear personal protection equipment (PPE) in accordance with Labor & Industries safety and health guidance while on the bus.


    Personal Protection Equipment and Vaccinations

    When will educators receive vaccinations?

    The Washington Department of Health and Governor Inslee have announced that educators will receive vaccinations in Phase 2 of the distribution plan. Superintendent Juneau is advocating that PreK-1 educators, educators in Intensive Service classrooms, school principals and assistant principals, SAEOPs, and nutrition, safety/security, and custodial staff who will be supporting in-person instruction are vaccinated in January. Read Superintendent Denise Juneau's letter.

    Will you be providing personal protection equipment (PPE) to staff?

    Yes. Seattle Public Schools will provide staff with PPE in accordance with Labor & Industries safety and health rules and guidance. All staff will be trained on use of PPE.

    Will students be provided with PPE?

    Public Health recommended face coverings will be available on site for students if needed.

    Why go back now when we're so close to being vaccinated?

    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. Health guidance from the Department of Health recommends bringing our youngest learners and students that receive special education services back into buildings first.


    Cleaning and Disinfection Protocols

    SPS cleaning and disinfecting protocols follow Washington Department of Health and Public Health –Seattle & King County guidelines.

    • Seattle Public Schools will move to implement daily classroom cleaning in advance of March 1. To support these efforts, the district is hiring 80 new custodians and has two new contracts with professional cleaning services.
    • The disinfecting of high touch surfaces/points occurs at least three times a day and will include but not limited to the following: doorknobs, door hardware, drinking fountains, stair rails, common areas, desks, tables, light switches, elevator buttons, and any other touchpoints in high traffic/common spaces.
    • All restrooms are serviced and disinfected three times per day, with at least 2 hours between servicing. Common spaces used by childcare (hallways, gyms, cafeterias, etc.) are cleaned and disinfected daily.
    • If there is a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19, Seattle Public Schools will follow the CDC Cleaning and Disinfecting guidelines and communication plan for staff, families, and students.

    Air Quality Improvements

    SPS Facilities/Operations, working with the Washington Economic Recovery Coalition, has also implemented a COVID-19 heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) risk assessment based on best practices identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), Washington State Department of Health, and Public Health Seattle-King County to provide staff and students a safe facility with improved air quality by increasing natural ventilation (the flow of outdoor air into the building) and optimizing filtration.

    • Every school's HVAC system has been evaluated to determine if we are maintaining air circulation rates of 25 CFM per occupant and CO2 at a maximum level of 700 parts per million in classroom spaces. Protocols to increase airflow have been developed and custodial staff has been trained.
    • The Facilities Department is using the highest rated filtration compatible with the school's installed HVAC system. In most cases, filters are being upgraded from MERV 8 to MERV 13 – a hospital grade filter.
    • In schools where the HVAC system won't accommodate the MERV 13 filter, free standing filtration systems will be added to classrooms and other spaces as needed.


    Other Questions

    Will all SPS students be going back in-person in the fall?

    We hope so! SPS will continue to follow the guidance of Public Health, the CDC, and the state. Depending on what we learn this spring we will make plans for the fall and communicate those plans to families, staff, and students.

    Why is SPS registering new students and kindergarten students for 2021-22?

    To hire teachers and make sure our buildings are ready we need to start planning now.

    Will childcare in school buildings be impacted by the return of Preschool-1 students? Will my child's care still be available?

    Most elementary and K-8 buildings can accommodate the increase of Preschool-1st grade students. There may be a few buildings that lose some childcare. After we analyze the Intent to Return In-Person survey results we will have a better understanding of the impact and will communicate to families and childcare providers.

    What if my child is already receiving some in-person services (Special Education or in an outdoor pilot)?

    These services will continue, and staff anticipate an increase in students identified for in-person services. through the IEP process and expansion of outdoor learning opportunities.

    Have an additional question? Please email