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    Preparing for Return to In-person Learning for Select Students
    Posted on 01/21/2021
    An empty classroom with chairs

    Preparing for Return to In-person Learning for Select Students

    Starting March 1, students in preschool, kindergarten, and first grade, and students enrolled in Special Education Intensive Service Pathways will have the opportunity to return for in-person instruction. In January, families of these students received an email survey asking them to select the in-person model or 100% remote model for the remainder of the 2020-21 school year.

    We heard from over 70% of our families in the initial survey. This week, principals and other school staff reached out directly to those families we did not receive a survey response from. Schools will be contacting families the rest of the week and will share the final results back with district leadership.

    These family survey responses are a critical component to our planning. Staff have also been surveyed about their ability to return to teach in-person. Student schedules, including the number of in-person days per week and classroom cohorts can't be finalized until all the data has been gathered.

    District staff will use the next five weeks to create schedules matching the number of teachers and number of students to create a one to 15 or less class size, create new bus routes for students and train bus drivers, and train school staff on the health and safety protocols for reopening buildings.

    There will be an appeal process for families who have a change in circumstances and are requesting to move to a different learning model. Criteria and a review process are under development. Information will be shared once complete.

    In early February, families will receive a confirmation of their instructional model for the remainder of the school year. By February 22, 2021 plans for in-person learning beginning in March will be confirmed and communicated. The district is currently in negotiations with Seattle Education Association. To learn more bargaining please visit the Bargaining Update webpage.


    What Families Need to Know about In-Person Instruction

    • All 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.
    • Schools and classrooms will look different than past years. We know comfort for our learners is a priority. While traditional activities like circle time or an active reading corner aren't possible during the pandemic, we are committed to making sure our classrooms remain joyful and engaging.
    • Classes will be smaller, and these classroom cohorts will stay together throughout the school day. Kindergarten, first grade, and Intensive Service Pathway 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.
    • Classrooms and buildings have been redesigned to support physical distancing. Classrooms across all elementary and K-8 schools and intensive service pathway classrooms in middle and high schools are in the process of being re-designed with a minimum of six feet between each student or appropriate spacing for preschool and special education small grouping. SPS facilities has organized elementary and K-8 schools into "cohort zones" with separate entrance/exits and bathroom facilities to reduce physical interaction between different groups of students. Plexiglass barriers have also been installed in the school offices and in some specialized classrooms to support students who may not be able to wear a mask or face covering.
    • The district is providing staff and students a safe learning environment with improved air quality by increasing natural ventilation (the flow of outdoor air into the building) and optimizing filtration. 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.
      • 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 air flow have been developed and custodial staff have 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.
    • SPS cleaning and disinfecting protocols follow Washington Department of Health and Public Health Seattle-King County guidance. 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 occurs at least three times a day and will include, but is 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 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.
    • Personal protective equipment (PPE), daily health screenings, staff protocols, and required training will help keep our students and staff healthy. Seattle Public Schools will provide staff with personal protection equipment (PPE) in accordance with Labor & Industries safety and health guidance and will have extra PPE on site should students need it. A daily health screening, or "attestation," is required for all students and staff prior to using district transportation or entering a school building. Training will be provided for all staff providing in-person learning and services on use of PPE and district approved protocols.

    Over these last many months, public health and the global medical community have learned a lot about the transmission of COVID-19. We are confident that while in-person learning will look different than in past years, the strong health and safety protocols we are successfully using at meal sites, childcare, and for in-person special education services have prepared us to return more students to our school buildings on March 1.

    We will be working 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.

    To learn more about the district's preparation, health and safety protocols, transportation, and additional details about the in-person model, please visit the Return to In-Person FAQ.