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Seattle Public Schools delays in-person instruction until late March

Hundreds of teachers are no longer deemed 'essential' as the district and teacher's union works to bargain an agreement.

SEATTLE — Seattle Public Schools is rescinding its order from February that designated hundreds of educators as "essential" as it works with the teacher's union to bring more students back to the classroom.

The district said in a joint statement with the Seattle Education Association that they are working on a bargaining agreement to get students enrolled in Special Education Intensive Service Pathways and preschool back into the classroom by March 29. 

Staff that support preschool and Intensive Service Pathways could return to buildings by March 22 to receive health and safety training and prepare for students' return.

The district and teacher's union continues to negotiate the return of students in kindergarten through first grade, as directed by the school board on Feb. 25.

"We’re urgently working with SPS to come to an agreement that prioritizes health, safety, and equity," Seattle Education Association media relations representative Julie Popper said in an email.

"The good news from today is that SPS and SEA are moving forward together," Seattle School Board President Chandra Hampson said. "We will do everything in our power to make sure that, when you do come back, that it's even better than what we had anticipated and that everyone feels extremely comfortable."

Earlier in March, the Seattle Education Association filed three unfair labor practice complaints against the school district in response to the school board choosing to designate about 700 educators as "essential," which would have brought them back to the classroom.

A previous statement from the district said the board's vote and Superintendent Denise Juneau's decision to identify some educators as "essential" was "made with the express purpose of taking the necessary steps to bring back students with the highest needs - students enrolled in Special Education Intensive Service Pathways and preschool."

The school board passed a resolution categorizing work of supporting students in Special Education Intensive Services Pathways as essential on Feb. 25.

As it currently stands, families will have the option for students to stay full remote when classrooms begin opening up to more students.

Cherylynne Crowther is co-Vice President of the Seattle Special Education PTSA and the mother of a sophomore son who needs special education services.

"He's a kid who needs different supports and the school district ought to be able to provide those," Crowther said. "There are kids who are entitled to one-to-one services, who knew back in September that they were not going to be able to access remote learning."