Seattle Public Schools is closed starting March 12.
Starting March 12, SPS is closing schools for a minimum of 14 calendar days. All school building activities including school day instruction, child care, health services, enrichment, athletics and club sports, preschool etc. are canceled until further notice. There are support services, enrichment or educational activities being provided to students on school campuses in order to prioritize clearing.
How will students who qualify for free or reduced lunch be supported during the closure?
As part of our emergency plan to address the closure of schools or a school, we will provide sack lunches prepared by our central kitchen. Distribution sites will be determined. We may distribute from school campuses, neighboring schools, or in partnership with the community centers and the City of Seattle.
Food distribution information will be provided directly to impacted families and on the school website. We have an emergency food plan which will be put into place on Monday, March 16. More information will be provided by Friday, March 13 and will be included on our website.
How is Seattle Public Schools (SPS) making decisions?
Public Health is the lead agency in our community’s COVID-19 response and SPS plays an important role in providing stability and safety for our region. Superintendent Juneau has been working in daily partnership with Public Health Seattle and King County, and officials from the city, county and state, and other superintendents to assess and respond to new information. Having a seat at the table ensures our voices are heard and included in decisions that impact all of us.
We have been following the guidance of Public Health Seattle and King County and implementing preventive and responsive strategies, but in light of Governor Inslee’s March 11 request that all citizens practice measures to slow the spread of COVID-19, it is time for the district to act swiftly. Starting Thursday, March 12, Superintendent Denise Juneau and the Seattle School Board will close Seattle Public Schools for a minimum of 14 calendar days as the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) currently guides. This necessary action is an effective way to disrupt widespread infection.
How will SPS handle student absences?
Since this is a district-directed closure, SPS is excusing all health-related student absences for the next 14 calendar days and prior to March 12 if families chose to keep their children home.
Will central office be open during the closure?
Yes, central office staff, an estimated 650 employees, are expected to continue to work during the closure to prepare school buildings for reopening, continue communications, and support educators, school leaders, families, and students.
Will student graduations be impacted? What about AP or IB testing?
We are in close contact with OSPI. There are a number decisions that need to be made to support our students. More information will be coming soon.
What additional steps did the district take to disrupt the spread of COVID-19 prior to closing?
The district canceled all events that bring large groups of students, adults, and community members together starting March 9 in response to Public Health guidance and in an abundance of caution. This included, but was not limited to, large school community events, school day assemblies, all student travel, and activities outside of school hours (i.e. overnight field trips and competitions). These restrictions went into effect on March 9. All out of state and international travel is canceled through the end of the school year.
In addition, school custodians prioritized disinfecting common, high use areas in the school building multiple times a day. Students were also asked to wash their hands regularly including when they arrived at school, prior to lunch, and anytime after using the restroom. Good hygiene habits are the most effective way to reduce the spread of COVID-19 according to Public Health and the CDC.
Are child care or extended day programs canceled?
Child care and extended day programs (i.e. Community Learning Center programs, continuous extended day programs supported by PTAs) are canceled because ALL school buildings are closed.
We know that closing our schools will impact our most vulnerable families and we recognize that working families depend on the consistency and predictability of supports and services our schools offer. We are working with partners and the city to determine how to best mitigate the impact closing schools will have on working families, especially if closure extends beyond 14 days per Public Health and the Governor’s office.
Are all athletics and club sports canceled?
Yes, athletics are canceled until further notice. Our agreement with WIAA is if schools or the district close, all athletics are postponed for the duration of the closure.
Club sports are also postponed for a minimum of 14 calendar days.
How did the Public Health “at risk” population guidance effect Seattle Public Schools?
People at higher risk, according to Public Health, include those who are 60 years and older; people who are pregnant; people with weakened/compromised immune systems or underlying health conditions, such as heart disease, lung disease, or diabetes. The health of our staff matters to us. Seattle Public Schools has close to 11,000 part-time and full-time employees, and some who meet the “at risk” criteria. A special emergency leave type was created to support staff at higher risk for COVID-19. How to record leave and documentation required has been communicated directly to all staff.
Prior to full district closure all events, workshops, field trips, etc. that require a substitute teacher were canceled and we deployed our certified central office staff, an estimated 100 educators, to support in our 104 schools.
How are you protecting vulnerable populations prior to closing?
We took extra steps to protect our students and staff by creating more time for hand washing during the school day, prioritizing regular cleanings in high-traffic areas, and providing more supplies to all schools for classroom cleanings. We also made program and practice adjustments to better ensure the safety of our students and staff.
School and central office staff have worked directly with families that have a medically fragile child to determine the best option for them while school was in session.
What should I (staff or family) consider prior to spring break travel?
If you will be traveling during spring break please monitor the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) travel advisories. Currently, travelers to Italy, Iran, China, and South Korea must self-quarantine for 14 days when arriving back in the United States. Updated travel information and current guidelines can be found on the CDC website.
Why isn’t the district providing online learning?
The district will not be providing distance learning in alignment with recommendations from OSPI. The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) has released recommendations regarding learning in the event of a prolonged absence or school closure. OSPI does not recommend an online distance learning model unless a district can ensure that all students will have equal access to learning. Seattle Public Schools is the largest district in our state with a diverse student population and many of our students do not have regular access to technology or the internet.
We have asked teachers to prepare activities for students in the event of a prolonged absence. This will not take the place of regular classroom instruction but will supplement student learning at home. Assignments will not be required or graded. These activities are meant to provide optional opportunities for student learning while they are absent from school.
Do schools or the district need to make up lost instructional time because of the 14-day closure?
Per state law, students are required to have 180 days of classroom instruction per year. At this time a decision has not been made about how the district will address closure and required instructional days. You can read OSPI guidance on school closures, waivers, etc. in their recent bulletin (see the link to OSPI above). We will communicate any changes to the school year calendar, if necessary, directly to families as soon as decisions are made. It is unlikely these decisions will be made soon because we don’t know how long and to what extent our community will be impacted by COVID-19.
How will Seattle Public Schools be keeping families, staff, and students informed regarding Coronavirus and information related to the 14-day closure?
SPS is sending regular, if not daily, emails to families and staff to provide the most up-to-date information regarding COVID-19 and the district website and school sites are updated daily.
As soon as new information becomes available, families will receive notifications similar to weather-related closures, through call, email, and SMS messages. Please make sure your contact information is up to date at your child’s school. Staff have been asked to check their work email daily.
What are the procedures and instructions for students to wash their hands (even while at home)?
We are encouraging families continue to prioritize student hand washing at home. Hand washing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds is the most effective way to contain the spread of illness and disease, including COVID-19. Learn more about hand washing and proper technique by watching this video.
How can will students receive supplemental learning supports?
Teachers have been asked to prepare supplemental instructional materials for students who need to be out of the classroom in the event of a sudden prolonged absence, including the district closure.
Due to issues of equity and access, we will note be providing provide digital learning opportunities in lieu of in-classroom instruction.
If an educator regularly uses Schoology, the SPS learning management system, lessons may be posted to that site for students. If a student is unable to access Schoology or the internet from home, the school will work with the student and family in order to deliver printed materials of missed lessons.
Please contact your child’s teacher/teachers for more information. Staff have been asked to check email daily.
How can parents and the community support healthy communities during this time?
If regular hand washing isn’t possible, the next best option is to use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer or sanitizer wipes, with 60% alcohol. Continue to encourage regular hand washing at home and good hygiene habits.
Child care and coverage for working parents will be a challenge. If you are able, offer to watch other people’s children (while practicing good social distancing).
Look out for each other
Some of our community members are more vulnerable to COVID-19, including individuals who are over 60, pregnant, or have a pre-existing medial condition. Help our loved ones and neighbors by offering to grocery shop and provide other assistance as needed.
What conversations should parents have with their children at home?
We know families, staff, and students are worried. We are committed to keeping you informed and working with you to keep our school communities safe. Want resources to share with your children? Here’s an informative graphic resource from NPR.
Where can I Turn for More Information?
As with any newly emerging infectious disease, knowledge evolves with time. Early on, it is difficult to know the source of the disease, the ways in which it spreads, how effectively it spreads from person to person, and how severe the infection is.
- 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019 nCov), Public Health Seattle and King County (this site includes FAQ in English, Spanish and Chinese) Public Health provides frequent updates.
- Please see the Washington State Department of Health’s translated fact sheets.
- Novel Coronavirus Outbreak 2020, Washington State Department of Health
- 2019 Novel Coronavirus, Wuhan, China, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Guidance for Travelers, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- WA State Department of Health novel coronavirus call center: 1-800-525-0127