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Seattle teachers, district spar over safety, days before classrooms set to reopen

Seattle Public Schools students in preschool and special education pathways are set to return to in-person learning March 11.

SEATTLE — In negotiations that have been acrimonious, the Seattle teacher's union provided a glimmer of hope Monday that younger Seattle Public Schools (SPS) students could soon return to class. 

In a Zoom call with media Monday, Seattle Education Association (SEA) President Jennifer Matter acknowledged that union and district negotiators, along with representatives from the state's Department of Labor and Industries (L&I), were touring school sites to talk about mitigation, health and safety needs during the pandemic.

As of Monday afternoon, preschool students and students in special education intensive pathways are scheduled to resume in-person instruction on Thursday, March 11, despite pleas from teachers who say the schools are not ready and they're being forced to return to teach. 

Matter asked that the decision be "rescinded" in order to bargain in good faith.

However, in the same call, she suggested that a deal could be reached, likely to return pre-k, kindergarten and first grades to SPS.

Data from the State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) shows, as of Feb. 22, almost half of elementary school school students are back for some sort of in-person instruction on a weekly basis. The same data suggests 36.7% of all students are back, on a weekly basis, across the state.  

According to the data, there are 154 school districts that have partial in-person instruction, and 59 districts that have 'typical, traditional' education, mostly in central and eastern Washington. Only six districts are 100% remote at this time.

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