In-person or online? Seattle Public Schools reveals scenarios for reopening this fall

SEATTLE --  Seattle Public Schools on Friday unveiled its plans for what school could look like this fall. It's the first district in Western Washington to reveal the scenarios that will either bring students back to class or continue distance learning.

The district has been surveying parents and notified the community earlier in June that they were weighing three different models.

Superintendent Denise Juneau sent an email to staff late Friday reviewing the steps taken to transition to online learning earlier this year during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Back-to-school scenarios this fall

Seattle Public Schools says if King County is in Phase 4 by September, then schools will resume as normal and everyone will be welcomed back. District officials said although they are hopeful to be in Phase 4 by fall -- that is "unlikely."

If the county is in Phase 2 or 3, it will be a hybrid model. That would mean some in-person learning and a 100% online option for families who don’t feel comfortable sending their children back to school.

Here's a look at the scenarios as outlined by Juneau:

1.     100% online learning will be provided as an opt-in option for any family that does not want to return in person. This option will also be available in the event buildings remain closed through fall or close abruptly due to a resurgence of COVID-19. Online learning will be high-quality and consistently provided with clearer expectations and accountability for instruction and assignments. Online learning will be provided on a reliable schedule that includes live instruction, video lessons, small group, etc. Over the summer months, educators, school leaders, and a digital learning task force will prepare for delivery of these enhanced supports.

2.     A blended model with some in-person learning for all K-12 students and some remote, online instruction will be provided. This scenario is highly dependent on public health guidelines and if we are in Phase 2 or 3 in the fall. It was determined by the Reopening Leadership Team with input from the engagement teams that while the hope is to provide in-person class time for everyone, social distancing guidelines may require a phasing-in approach or starting with smaller student numbers. In doing that, priority would be given to students of color furthest from educational justice, students who require in-person therapy, students who receive Special Education services or IEP supports that can’t be delivered online, students who receive services as English Learners, and students supported by McKinney Vento – students experiencing homelessness or unstable housing. Teams also expressed interest in providing additional in-person instruction for K-3 students and students in transition years –sixth grade and ninth grade. The schedule for a blended model, part-time in person and part-time remote learning, is yet to be determined. The in-person schedule is dependent on the physical capacity of our buildings. We are exploring partnerships with community organizations to increase space capacity.

3.     A full return to in-person classes. A full return to regular instruction will require we are in Phase 4 and that we follow guidelines of Public Health. While we are hopeful, this scenario is unlikely in fall 2020.

Juneau said that there are still many unknowns, but that staff and the school board will work together to provide more answers in the coming weeks.

"On June 30, a detailed Fall Reopening Plan will be presented to the School Board during a public work session. The plan will reflect the values and priorities surfaced during the recent engagement planning, the model framework outlined above, an analysis of our buildings’ physical capacity, and adherence to Public Health guidelines."