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What it could take for Seattle Public Schools to opt for remote learning

A letter to SPS staff on Monday describes benchmarks that could lead to consideration of remote learning

SEATTLE — Public schools in Washington are making decisions on whether to shift to remote learning as COVID-19 omicron variant cases continue to rise.

The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction announced late last week the state will not enforce a mandate for schools to return to remote learning due to COVID-19, as it did in 2020. Instead, individual schools will need to decide on their own.

"There will not be closures ordered from this office, or the governor's office," state Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal said in a state of the schools address Friday.

So what metrics are school districts following that will trigger a return to remote learning?

Seattle Public Schools, Washington's largest school district, will follow a case-by-case, class-by-class set of metrics that were laid out in a letter to SPS staff on Monday, according to district spokesperson Tim Robinson.

The data points that may lead to consideration of remote learning include:

• Elementary student absence rate is approaching 50%: consider remote instruction for up to 10 calendar days
• K-5 and K-8 schools have 50% of their classrooms in remote: monitor for two to three days then consider full school remote
• 10% of core group of students and staff COVID positive: consider remote instruction for up to 10 calendar days.
• An absentee rate of 40% of students in a secondary school: consider remote instruction for up to 10 calendar days
• 10% of secondary students are COVID positive across multiple classrooms: consider remote instruction for up to 10 calendar days
• 25% of all SPS schools are 100% remote: consider taking district remote
• Percent and mix of unfilled positions in a school creates unmanageable operational and/or safety risks.
• 50% to 100% school leader/COVID Site Supervisor absence due to confirmed COVID case consider remote instruction

The letter said the transition to remote also hinges on staffing, student absences, physical layout, health protocols, community transmission rates, and other factors.

As of Tuesday night, Franklin High School is switching to remote learning starting Wednesday and return to in-person learning on Tuesday, January 18. There is no school on Monday, January 17 due to the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. The announcement came a day after classes at Franklin High were canceled for Tuesday.

Lowell Elementary school is also opting for remote learning starting Wednesday. The next date students might possibly return to in-person learning is Thursday, January 20.

On Monday and Tuesday, classes at Kimball Elementary School were canceled and will continue to be canceled on Wednesday.

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