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    Return to In-Person Learning FAQ

    An illustration of a school buildingRead more the most recent update about the Return to In-person Learning for Select Students.

    In-Person Learning Plan

    In addition to the questions and answers found on this page, you can learn more on our 2021 In-Person Learning Plan page.


    Frequently Asked Questions



    Return to In-Person FAQ

    We have many resources and answers on our website, including health and safety protocols.

    If you have a question not addressed here, we are here to help.

    Return Dates

    Return Dates for In-person Learning for preschool, Special Education Intensive Service Pathways, kindergarten - 5th grade:

    • March 29: All preschool students and students enrolled in elementary special education Intensive Services Pathways.
    • April 5: All other kindergarten to 5th grade students.
    • April 5: Students enrolled in middle and high school special education intensive pathways.
    • April 19: Students in 6th - 12th grade (subject to SEA and School Board approval)

    What will my student's schedule look like?

    There are different scenarios possible, based on family Intent to Return to In-Person survey results. View the scenarios and sample schedules.

    What are the new K-8 bell times?

    Elementary and K-8 schools begin at 8 a.m. and end at 2:30 p.m. for students in both the remote and half-day in-person model.

    K-8 and Elementary Bell Schedule

    8 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday

    Morning Block: 8 – 10:45 a.m.

    Afternoon Block: 11:45 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. 8 a.m. – 1:15 p.m.

    Wednesday All students will be remote

    This 30-minute adjustment will allow more students to participate in in-person learning. While transportation is not guaranteed for all students, this change will help us to increase transportation in the most equitable way possible. Read more about this update.

    Can we choose between the in-person groups?

    Families are not able to select specific days or cohort groups for their student. Schools will confirm student schedules once we have all the survey results. View the scenarios and sample schedules.

    Can I change my decision after the survey deadline?

    There is an appeals process. However, appeals will be limited because of the impacts on staffing, meals, and transportation. Read more about our appeals process.

    Can students switch between in-person and remote learning?

    If a student or students learning in-person have a confirmed case of COVID-19, they can switch to remote learning. We cannot accommodate students switching between in-person and remote due to travel. We urge you to keep our school communities in mind when thinking about any travel plans. Read more about travel guidance. 

    What is the recommendation for families for spring break?

    We urge you to keep our school communities in mind when thinking about any travel plans and limit unnecessary travel. We don’t have the staffing flexibility to accommodate switching students’ instructional models due to travel. Read more about travel guidance.

    Why half-days?

    When planning the return to in-person learning, we asked our families what was most important to them. Overwhelmingly, the response was keeping classroom teachers consistent. The hybrid, half-day schedule, bargained with Seattle Education Association, will help keep more students assigned to their same teacher.

    What will happen to child care programs in SPS buildings?

    The return to in-person learning may affect child care programs’ capacity in our buildings. Families may need to make new child care arrangements. We are working with partners on solutions.

    View a list of schools where child care programs plan to keep operating in schools this spring and where child care programs will be closing.

    Will my student have transportation?

    Transportation is not guaranteed for all students. We are increasing transportation for as many students as possible. Learn more about transportation during the return to in-person learning.

    Will students receive meals?

    Student meals are available for all SPS students! Learn more about Seattle Public Schools student meals during the remote and hybrid learning.

    What happens if there is a positive case of COVID-19?

    If a student or staff does test positive for COVID-19, SPS will work with public health to identify all close contacts of that person. Read our contact tracing flyer.


    Bargaining Updates

    The current MOU requires that we negotiate with the Seattle Education Association any changes to the current remote instructional model.

    On March 16, Seattle Public Schools and the Seattle Education Association (SEA) came to a tentative agreement that supports a safe return to school buildings for all preschool, K-12 Special Education Intensive Service Pathways, and all kindergarten to 5th grade students. The School Board and SEA have both approved the kindergarten - 5th grade model for learning. Students in PreK-5th grade begin the new model Monday, April 5.

    Seattle Education Association and Seattle Public Schools have now reached a tentative agreement to provide in-person learning for grades 6-12 that meets the guidelines of the Governor Inslee's proclamation. The agreed to schedule does its best to finish this year strong keeping educators and students connected. Students, in-person and remote learners, begin April 5 for 6-12th grade Special Education Intensive Service Pathways students and April 19 for all other secondary students.

    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. 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.

    Read about SEA and SPS bargaining updates.


    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).



    Teaching and Learning

    Will learning in the classroom still be through SeeSaw and Teams?

    Educators will continue to use SeeSaw and Teams to provide learning materials and activities, in addition to any in-person learning materials.

    How will remote learning devices (such as iPads) be incorporated into in-person delivery?

    Educators and students have learned how to incorporate technology into their daily instruction. Students will keep their iPads for the remainder of the school year and there will be opportunities to use their device for certain subjects or tasks.

    What are the SEL impacts of changing teachers on our youngest learners?

    We are focused on the wellness of our students as we try to support their learning during the pandemic. Providing in-person services is an important move to supporting the social-emotional learning and mental health of our youngest students. Our teachers love our students and they will be continuing to build strong relationships as we roll into in-person learning.

    How will dual language immersion students get served?

    Instruction will continue for students. Dual language educators will work with their building administrator, Building Leadership Team (including parents/caregivers), and Professional Learning Community to implement a schedule that serves the needs of their students and their community. Every effort will be made to provide continuity of instruction for your child with their teacher. While some staffing shifts may take place due to staff availability to return in person, your child’s instruction will continue whether they return in person or continue with remote learning.

    How are dual language programs structured? Will AM/PM be taught in both languages?

    Dual language programs are structured where 50% of learning is in the target language (Spanish, Mandarin, or Japanese) and 50% of learning is in English. For example, a student takes English language arts in English and math in Spanish. The morning and afternoon will provide learning opportunities in both the target language and English.



    Will athletics resume?

    Middle School Athletics: The Athletics Department has been working closely with middle school building leaders and staff to determine middle school athletics programming for the remainder of the school year. After extensive consideration, middle school athletics will not be provided this spring.

    High School:In alignment, Seattle Public Schools' high school athletic programming began February 22, 2021. All sports will operate following guidance and protocol from the Governor’s Office, Department of Health (DOH), Washington Interscholastic Activities Association (WIAA), and school district.

    Read more about the athletics.

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

    There is no early drop off or late pick up. All daily health screening, attestation procedures, must be completed prior to students receiving in-person instruction. K-5th Grade students will be escorted to and from designated drop off/pick up locations by a school representative to ensure safe social guidelines are followed.

    Are vaccines required for students or staff?

    All SPS staff are now eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, but staff are not currently required to get the vaccine. SPS have been sharing vaccine clinic opportunities with staff.

    The COVID-19 vaccines currently authorized for emergency use by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) are not authorized for individuals under 16. Students over the age of 16 are not required to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

    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. Additional mitigation strategies are implemented if a student can't wear a mask.


    What if COVID-19 cases worsen?

    Health professionals have provided research to support in-person learning for our students. The steps we are taking, including the use of small cohorts, physical distancing, universal mask wearing, and hand washing 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 100% remote instruction option will have synchronous and asynchronous learning. In some instances, a child's teacher may change to another educator.

    How large will in-person classes be this spring?

    Classrooms will support up to a 1:15 teacher-student ratio.

    Will classrooms of elementary students interact during the school day?

    All elementary classroom cohorts will stay together throughout the day, including at recess.

    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. We remain 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 Spring 2021. 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?

    Most students will be learning on a 1/2 day schedule or remotely. Grab and go lunches will also be available from school sites. Students will not eat meals in the classroom, except in rare cases. For programs that require meals, an outside or large socially distanced space will be used. Read more about student meals.

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

    Classrooms across all elementary and K-8 schools have been 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 for elementary students be managed safely?

    K-5th grade specialist classes (i.e., art, music, physical education) will be provided in remote, synchronous classes.

    How will recess be managed and structured?

    Recess will be built into the daily in-person schedule. Outdoor time will be scheduled to limit cross cohort exposure.



    Does the district have health and safety protocols?

    Yes, local, state, and federal health guidelines have informed the development of the SPS COVID-19 Health and Safety Protocols pdf icon.

    The district has been using these protocols since the beginning of the pandemic, and while there have been COVID-19 cases at some school sites, they have been isolated and contained. You may read more on our 2021 In-Person Learning Plan page.

    Will there be funding for a full time nurse at each school?

    No. The state has not allocated additional funds for full time nurses at each site.

    My child, or someone in the household, is exposed to COVID-19 or tests positive and is required to isolate. Would my child join the on-line class during that time?

    These details are still being determined.

    Would the whole class quarantine remotely?

    The DOH guidance for a COVID-19 outbreak in schools when grouping or cohorting students is, to dismiss the entire classroom for home quarantined for 14 days if two or more laboratory positive (PCR or antigen) COVID-19 cases occur within the group or cohort within a 14 day period.

    Further, a school will be closed and switch to remote learning for 14 days when one of the following occurs: two or more classrooms are dismissed due to outbreaks in schools with 10 or fewer classrooms; 10% or more of classrooms are dismissed due to outbreaks in schools with greater than 10 classrooms; or the school cannot function due to insufficient teaching or support staff.

    How does a cohort model work in an open space building where there are two classes in the same room with no walls or doors?

    Cohorts may include more than one class of students due to a configuration of school sites for instructional purposes and physical layout. If two classes are housed in an open space, they will be managed as one cohort that maintains distance from other cohorts.

    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?

    The governor's emergency order to bring back all K-5th grade students in-person at least twice a week by April 5 doesn't provide the transportation department sufficient time to contract and onboard enough drivers and implement bus routes for all students. To serve all students per the district's typical transportation service standards, approximately 400 buses will be required. As of March 18, about half the number of required bus drivers are available.

    In response, yellow buses have been prioritized for students that the district has a legal obligation to serve and those who are most vulnerable.

    Yellow bus transportation will be limited and provided for students receiving special education services whose Individualized Education Program (IEP) includes transportation, Head Start participants, McKinney-Vento (a program that serves students experiencing homelessness), students receiving foster care services, and students with a 504 accommodation for transportation. Once 6-12th grade students return to school buildings, Orca Cards will be provided.

    Recruiting drivers and developing bus routes will continue and the district will explore whether services could be offered to additional students as more resources become available.

    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?

    SPS staff are currently eligible for vaccinations.

    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.


    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. To support these efforts, the district is hiring more 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 full time 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.

    Have an additional question? Please email