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Seattle school district plans for a hybrid of in-person and remote learning for the fall

Roosevelt High School in Seattle
Ashley Gross
Roosevelt High School in Seattle

Seattle Public Schools, the state’s largest school district, said the model that makes the most sense for the fall is a hybrid of in-person and remote learning given public health requirements to control the coronavirus pandemic.

But that will place a burden on families that have already spent months with children at home due to school closures. 

The district surveyed families and found that about 80 percent of them prefer a model that includes both in-person and online school. About 8 percent said they prefer 100 percent remote learning, and 11 percent said they weren't sure. About 2.5 percent of families said they don't plan to return to the district. Traditional, five-day-a-week, in-person school is unlikely for most students because of space and staffing constraints.

So Seattle district leaders have proposed having students come to school twice a week in different groups. Sherri Kokx, senior advisor to the superintendent, acknowledged this will create challenges when students are learning from home the rest of the time.

"We know that families need support around child care, as well as students needing support around the academics or perhaps technical supports," Kokx said in a school board work session.

The district plans to also offer a 100 percent remote-learning option.

The district will have to institute a number of new procedures to keep students, educators and other staff safe when they return to school buildings. People will be required to wear masks and students will have to be screened as they arrive to make sure they don't have any symptoms of COVID-19. Classrooms will have to be reconfigured to create more space between students. And the district will have to buy additional hand sanitizer, cleaning supplies and masks.

Some school board directors said they’re concerned Seattle Public Schools has not done enough to gather input from families of color, even though the district’s strategic plan prioritizes the needs of African American male students.

Participation in the district's survey was much lower for families with African American male students; only 24 percent responded compared with 54 percent of the families of all other students. 

In July 2017, Ashley Gross became KNKX's youth and education reporter after years of covering the business and labor beat. She joined the station in May 2012 and previously worked five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.