SEATTLE - They have come to a tentative agreement. For several months, the Seattle Public Schools District and the Seattle Education Association have been negotiating a deal for the beginning of the school year that starts in only a matter of days.
Next Friday, most students in Seattle will begin learning much like the same way they did in the spring – from a distance.
But there is still a concern for special needs students that the union worries have not been addressed.
“I miss being in class,” said 12-year-old Amelia Laing. “It’s good we can do it online but it’s not the same as being in school.”
Amelia might be visually impaired but she’s a wiz in school.
She had been going to Robert Eagle Staff Middle School and her parents say she is studying a full grade ahead.
Come next Friday she won’t be on campus, rather learning from home, and her mother Gail worries she may not have all the materials she needs.
“She doesn’t need a one-on-one aide, she just needs the technology and braille books at this point,” she said.
Amelia says she loves Spanish, history, math and science but without specialized study material she worries she may fall behind.
“I want to be able to do the work when everybody else can,” said Amelia.
“It seems very daunting right now,” said teacher Alena Roberts who is also Amelia’s teacher. She also worries a lack of study materials will leave the 12-year-old will at a disadvantage.
“Students who are visually impaired absolutely can do science,” said Roberts. “But if there’s no hands on component, you’ve fundamentally changed their access.”
Seattle Public Schools told Q13 News it is doing everything it can to make sure students have everything they need and that teachers should request materials from supervisors.
But SEA says the district has yet to fill critical positions for blind and deaf students and says students are being failed by the district.
“The team is just not sure how were going to fully meet the needs of our students and help afford them equal access to their sighted peers,” said instructor Michelle Farrell.
The district insists special education is a topic still under negotiation.
Amelia’s mom worries her daughter won’t have access to educational materials and says the deficiency is a matter of civil rights.
“Are we looking at a month with no books, I’m not sure,” said Gail. “I think any parent would feel it’s unacceptable to have their child not have access to materials every child has access to.”
Highlights of the tentative agreement, according to SEA, include both live streamed and pre-recorded lessons.
The first two weeks of school will also focus on social and emotional connections for kids and teachers as they begin the school year via webcam.
Members of SEA plan to vote on the tentative agreement Friday.