Bellevue, Lake Wash, Issaquah and Sno Valley among districts planning return to some in-person learning in October

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Over the past week many school districts provided more specifics to families and staff on return-to-school plans. Some districts are starting to set actual dates – either for when some limited in-person instruction can happen (typically starting with younger students a few days a week) or for when they will formally begin planning to do that. Some districts, such as Lake Washington and Bellevue, already allow for limited in-person instruction for some students with disabilities or other needs that cannot be met remotely.

As a general rule, school districts are guided by a combination of these sources in deciding when and how to re-open: Washington State Department of Health Decision Tree, local county public health guidelines (based on which county or counties the districts is located in, also possibly where staff reside if there are significant numbers in neighboring counties), the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI), and other required agency and guidance. Additionally, re-opening plans include a bargaining component with local employee unions (e.g., teachers, paraeducators, etc.) to set out workplace conditions (sometimes called Memorandum or Letters of Understanding).

It appears most/all districts will continue to offer some form of online learning as an option for students who prefer to stay with remote instruction, but families are encouraged to check directly with their district. Also, middle and high school families should expect their return to some form of in-person learning to happen later, and possibly consist of only a hybrid option for the rest of the school year if current re-opening guidelines are used.

Here are plans from some districts on the Eastside.

Bellevue School District

From Sept. 16 and Sept. 21 updates to families – “Starting September 21, we will begin serving some students in person. We will start with some students receiving special education services and students who received an incomplete last spring.

The next group of students we anticipate providing in person services for is our multi-language learners, many of whom will be required to be in person for testing services….

As we move forward, we plan to increase the in-person services to the before mentioned groups as well as welcome additional students back in person as follows:

Pre-K – 2nd grade for 5 days per week; 3rd – 5th grade students for 2-3 days per week; Middle and high school (6th – 12th grades) for 1 day per week; Middle and high school moving to 2-3 days per week.”

The transition will be gradual, more like turning a dial than flipping a switch. Once we see a consistent downward trend in infection rates, we will bring students back in gradual waves for in-person instruction.”

Everett School District

From Sept. 14 letter to families – the District says it will begin planning for some in-person instruction in a few weeks if there is no post Labor Day spike. It does not set any firm dates: “They [Snohomish Health] recommend monitoring Covid cases during the next few weeks for any spikes due to Labor Day gatherings or contacts, and if there is no spike, the Snohomish Health District recommends school districts may begin planning for in-person learning for some elementary school students, as well as special needs and high needs students of any grade level. They continue to recommend middle and high school students remain in full remote learning.”

Middle and high school students will remain in remote learning. Those plans will be revisited “[i]f elementary school students are able to return to in-person learning in a safe and stable manner, maintaining similar or better COVID-19 circumstances overall” according to Snohomish Health.”

Issaquah School District

From a Sept. 17 letter to families – “Starting the week of September 28, our plan is to bring back a portion of our students with special needs for in-person instruction, including students in our ECE, LRCII, and ACT programs. We also plan to bring in our ECEAP preschool students at the same time.

The Issaquah School District has also set a goal to provide some form of in-person learning for our kindergarten and first grade students no later than October 15.

Following the return of our K-1 students, we intend to bring second and third grade students back for in-person instruction. Then our fourth and fifth grade students would return. The phasing-in, or return, of each grade band will most likely occur in intervals of three weeks between each group….

In considering the return of our middle and high school students, WSDOH Decision Tree guidance suggests the rate of COVID-19 should be below 25 cases per 100,000 before returning to in-person instruction. At that level, districts are encouraged to provide some form of hybrid learning for middle and high school students and, over time and if physical space allows, consider full-time in-person instruction.

Lake Washington School District

From a Sept. 18 letter to families: “[W]e have set a target of kindergarten returning for in-person learning in October. There are many variables…so we cannot yet point to a specific date.…” Note in Lake Washington, some in-person instruction for some students with disabilities has already begun.

In alignment with all agencies’ guidance and based on our knowledge of student educational experiences and developmental stages, we will start by bringing back our kindergarten learners followed by our students in first grade…. After we have successfully transitioned Kindergarten and then first grade; we will determine the best path forward to phase in additional grade levels/students to in-person learning.

Northshore School District

From a Sept. 18 letter to families: Some in-person provided “in coming weeks” for “students in greatest need of additional support” if “considerations continue to trend in a favorable direction.” Programs include: pre-kindergarten, functional skills and academics (FSA), mid-level (blended, sensory, social emotional), English learners and learning center.

NSD will update re-opening plans every Friday. NSD has set out a Decision Making Process detailing the framework the district will use to reopen schools (available here).

Learn more at Northshore Learns (at the district website).

Snoqualmie Valley School District

From a Sept. 18 letter to families[O]ur district has begun planning for some Snoqualmie Valley School District students to return to school in-person as early as mid-October, if King County continues to meet COVID-19 targets set by the Public Health of Seattle & King County and the state Department of Health….

This week [week of Sept 14] we began serving some students receiving special education services in person in our school buildings, on a case-by-case basis. We also partnered with community providers to implement some in home and at school Specially Designed Instruction and therapies. 

Next week, pending healthy air quality conditions, our Transition Learning Center students will return to a hybrid, outdoor model….In addition, we will be working with staff and families of students in specialty classrooms at TRES and NBES, to hopefully bring students back to school before October 19….

No sooner than October 19: If numbers allow for proper social distancing, we hope to serve our youngest students in preschool, kindergarten, 1st and 2nd grades through in-person learning four full school days a week (M, T, Th, F). Details regarding Wednesday will be shared will be confirmed later.

Middle and High School students: In considering the return of our middle and high school students, WSDOH Decision Tree guidance suggests the rate of COVID-19 should be below 25 cases per 100,000 before returning to in-person instruction….When this time comes, we plan to phase in grades 6-8, then grades 9-12, to return to in-person in the Hybrid A/B Rotation model.”