This article is one of a series of articles produced by The Seattle Medium through support provided by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative to Word In Black, a collaborative of 10 Black-owned media outlets across the country.
By Aaron Allen, The Seattle Medium
Because of very high absentee and quarantine rates, Seattle Public Schools (SPS) has had to temporarily close or transition 13 schools to remote learning.
The closure/transitions are the latest issues facing the district as they continue to try to navigate the COVID pandemic. SPS officials say that they are working diligently to keep parents informed and apply best practices to ensure the safety of its students and staff.
According to SPS officials, “in preparation for school, we evaluate health and attendance data several times a day and into the evening. Every option to keep students consistently in school and learning in person is explored. Cancelation is a last resort.”
In the event that there are instructional changes at a school, the families affected will receive an email and/or phone voice message. After the message is shared with families it will be posted to the school’s website, through the district’s social media channels.
SPS says that they are working closely with public health experts, communicating regularly with school administrators and monitoring data to determine the best plan of action for each school should they have a spike in COVID cases.
“The district’s continuity of operations plan identifies several interrelated factors that inform the decision to move a classroom or a school building to remote instruction,” says the district in a statement to The Seattle Medium. “Those include student absenteeism due to COVID, staff absences, substitute teacher availability, school leader coverage, and operations support in transportation, custodial and culinary services.”
Since the beginning of the new year several schools were temporarily closed due to issue related to COVID, and have returned to in-person learning. These schools include: Chief Sealth International High School, Franklin High School, Cleveland High School, Interagency, and Lincoln High School.
In addition, Aki Kurose Middle School, Broadview-Thomson K-8, Franklin High School, Lowell Elementary School, Mercer Middle School, Meany Middle School, Olympic Hills Elementary, and South Shore PreK-8 temporarily shifted to remote learning for most students with many of them returning to school earlier this week.
SPS says that they will continue to utilize mitigation strategies to minimize transmission of COVID. These strategies include the practice of universal masking and social distancing, mandating vaccination for SPS employees, enhancing air circulation, including the incorporation of hospital grade filters and free standing HEPA filters.
Schools will Provide on-site protected health rooms, diagnostic testing and a covid site supervisors as well as clinics and testing options for SPS students and staff and Offer vaccine. In addition, air circulation is monitored consistently in SPS buildings in partnership with outside consultation.