UPDATE, July 21: Updates to say the district has dropped its plan to offer full-time, in-person instruction.
Bellevue School District leaders said they no longer plan to offer 100 percent in-person instruction for all students in the fall because of the recent rise in COVID-19 cases in the region.
Instead, the district said in a message to families that it is planning for two models. One would be a hybrid of some in-person and some remote learning, with full-time in-person instruction for pre-kindergarten through second grade and for some students with specific needs. The other would be 100 percent virtual learning.
Many school districts in the region are proposing a hybrid of in-person and remote learning for the fall, but the Bellevue School District also is exploring something that sounds like a flashback to the pre-pandemic days: 100 percent in-person instruction.
Under this model, Bellevue students in kindergarten through 12th grade could opt for attending school in person five days a week.
But district leaders caution that it’s too early to know if that’s viable, given the risks of the coronavirus, especially as public health experts caution that transmission could increase in fall and winter. A significant number of students would have to opt for 100 percent remote learning to make the numbers work and create enough space for students to spread out in classrooms.
Ivan Duran is superintendent of the Bellevue district, which serves about 20,000 students.
“It’s easy to say, 'Yeah, everybody needs to go back.' But the complications are actually making a plan where people are really safe,” Duran said. “So that’s something we really want to make sure we have in place.”
President Donald Trump has been pressuring districts to bring students back full time for in-person instruction, threatening to withhold federal funding from those that don’t. His comments drew a sharp rebuke from the Washington Education Association, the statewide teachers union, which said health and safety need to be schools’ primary focus.
Duran said being able to offer full-time, in-person instruction may also require some relaxing of physical distancing requirements.
The other model Bellevue is considering is more akin to what other districts have proposed. Students in most grades would come to school in person for part of the week and learn from home the rest of the time. But by repurposing some space in schools, the district aims to offer full-time, in-person instruction to children in lower grades, said Eva Collins, Bellevue’s deputy superintendent.
“We are looking at our youngest students, potentially preschool through second grade, coming full time in person and then some students with specific needs we are looking at coming full time in person,” she said.
The district has been surveying families to find out their preferences. The Bellevue district will hold a meeting this Wednesday afternoon about planning for fall.