SEATTLE - Seattle Public Schools is delaying a return to the classroom for its youngest students during the coronavirus pandemic by at least a week because it has yet to reach an agreement with the teachers’ union.
In a statement Monday the district said it had not yet negotiated new working conditions with the Seattle Education Association. Previously the district had hoped to begin some in-person learning on March 8. That is now delayed until at least March 8.
Last week Gov. Jay Inslee urged more schools to open up to in-person instruction, saying the online classroom experience wasn’t adequate for many.
The Democratic governor said moving toward more in-person instruction is in line with the scientific consensus and the latest guidance from federal officials. Inslee said only about 20% of the state’s more than one million public school students were receiving some form of in-person instruction.
Seattle is the state’s largest district, with about 50,000 students. The district had hoped to give parents the option to have preschool, kindergarten, first grade and special education students return for some classroom instruction.
Last year, the Seattle School Board ordered its staff to begin working on a plan to allow students and teachers to return to class in the phased approach.
"Central office staff have been preparing for many months," the district statement said. "Health and safety protocols have been implemented, Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) is in place, and the district has prepared for student transportation and meals."
The Seattle teachers’ union said it wants specific language on COVID-19 safety protocols put in writing.
"We understand the desire to get students back to in-person learning — many of us are parents of SPS students too and as educators we miss seeing our students in person," the Seattle Education Association said on Facebook.
The union said it was working to reach an agreement quickly, "but we’re unwilling to cut corners on safety precautions in order to meet arbitrary deadlines."
The school board is scheduled to have a special meeting on Feb. 25 to discuss next steps in its reopening plan.