SEATTLE - Seattle Public Schools announced virtual learning will not be offered to students in middle and high school this upcoming school year due to low enrollment.
Staff are now reaching out to families who signed up for virtual learning to help them enroll in alternative online learning options that are approved by the state and come at no cost to families.
On the district website it said, "SPS will be dedicating district resources to provide the best possible online learning experience and to meet our students’ needs. We intend to learn from the year and evaluate if a virtual option can be expanded in the future."
"These are the very families who need the most support we can give them," said Janis White, the president of the Special Education PTSA. "To essentially tell them on the eve of the start of school, that the school program that they thought their student was going to attend is canceled… frankly, I’m just speechless."
The first day of school is on Sept. 1, and White said the announcement came as a very last-minute decision for families who thought remote learning in the district would be available.
"To receive this kind of notice less than a month before the start of school, that the virtual option has been canceled, is really disruptive," said White. "Especially for families who have students with disabilities, for families where there are ongoing health issues, these are already families who have been struggling during the pandemic."
Meanwhile, Seattle Public Schools will give students in grades K-5 the option to learn from home.
Casey Zirkle’s daughter Lola is entering the second grade, and the family is now reconsidering in-person learning.
"Just in our neighborhood there’s been an outbreak, and I just learned from another parent whose daughter goes to the daycare where the outbreak happened that it was a lot of the kiddos," said Zirkle. "I know a lot of parents are eager to have their kids back at school, but for me just better safe than sorry."
The Seattle Education Association issued a statement in response that said in part:
"SEA recognizes that our students, particularly our students of color, students with disabilities, and immigrant students, need a middle and high school virtual option in 2021-2022 in addition to the elementary option. We are committed to working to meet all students’ needs in all grades. We call on SPS to dedicate itself to equitable education for all of our students and to recognize that health and safety are paramount criteria for any learning environment. The virtual option is a critical piece of this equitable, safe education for students in elementary, middle, and high school."
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