SEATTLE - Seattle Public Schools will now have a two-day delay for 54,000 families in the district. The teacher’s union asked for more time to prepare for online teaching as students in first through 12th grade will start school on September 4.
Kindergarteners will start on Sept. 8. K-8 students will start at 8:30 a.m. while middle and high schoolers begin at 9 a.m.
With those dates just around the corner, parents still don’t know exactly what a school day will look like from home.
Superintendent of Seattle Public Schools Denise Juneau on Tuesday told Q13 News parents can expect a more condensed day of classes compared to what a normal school day used to be.
“There is a misconception when we are talking about live learning it’s not a teacher sitting in front of a video lecturing,” Juneau said.
SPS says there will be a combination of live lessons and small group conversations along with mini-lessons. Juneau said the learning may look different by grade and by the school, but there will be a consistent system in place so parents can schedule and plan for the year.
“It’s not going to be 6 hours of sitting in front of a screen, we hope to have a mixture of some online live learning and then some resources that can be accessed to deepen the understanding of what was taught that morning,” Juneau said.
For parents who work and cannot supervise young kids during every live session, Juneau said educators will record teachings and provide other resources for students to make up the instruction.
“We are looking at really what we are calling power standards, what is the nuggets of information that’s necessary for each grade level to learn," she said.
Juneau said the district is listening to concerns and input and said the online experience will be better than the emergency online lessons of the spring.
But the area of concern for many still remains how the district will handle special needs children.
“We continue to work with our special education families and to hear their concerns we know it was a little rocky this spring.
It is an acknowledgment of the difficulties surrounding children with IEP’s and special needs. As of Tuesday, it is unclear how the district will address students who need one on one attention. Juneau says the details are still stuck in the bargaining process.
Q13 News also asked Juneau what the hardest thing is for her when it comes to managing during a pandemic.
“I think right now it’s just our concern about how are we making sure we are reaching out to the students of color for the education justice,” Juneau said.
One important component that will be access to technology and WiFi.
SPS says they expect all 54,000 students in their district to be covered when it comes to electronic devices.
Also, another topic that has played out during the pandemic has been the district’s decision to cut ties with school resource officers soon after protests began.
In July, Q13 News talked to Seattle Police Officer Rosell Ellis. The African American officer grew up in the Rainier Beach area and was a school resource officer for Garfield High School. Ellis said he connected with the students there and was disappointed with the district’s decision.
Q13 News asked Juneau about the reasoning for the swift decision instead of giving time for more parental input.
“It’s not a forever thing either, I mean, the board resolution really says indefinitely but part of the resolution also says that we will work with the city and will work with the Seattle Police Department,” Juneau said.
Juneau said they will work to see if values align to find a pathway forward to get SRO’s to possibly return but she said it will probably be in a ‘different type of capacity.’
Tuesday’s discussions also included concerns over funding and what that will mean for contract workers like school bus drivers. Juneau says funding for school transportation is tied to ridership and so there is a question of how districts will maneuver the issue.
Talks of layoffs could come up in various districts if the state does not come up with extra funding.
One staggering fact is that SPS has handed out one million free meals during the pandemic. School bus drivers helped deliver many of those free meals to needy families.
Juneau said SPS will continue to provide those free meals. But during the fall, USDA’s rules will kick back in, meaning all families needing free food will have to enter the proper paperwork.
She said that was not the case this summer allowing anyone to receive a meal and she is worried about having to turn families away if they don’t have the proper paperwork in on time.