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Seattle Public Schools reaches tentative agreement with teachers’ union for return to school

A first grade student at the Green Mountain School listens to her teacher on Feb. 18, 2021 in Woodland, Washington. (Photo by Nathan Howard/Getty Images)

Seattle Public Schools and the Seattle Education Association teachers’ union came to a tentative agreement Tuesday for a safe return to school buildings for preschool and elementary students and staff.

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According to the release about the agreement, it “focuses on creating safe learning environments and supports special education inclusion by keeping students with IEPs in class with their general education peers.”

The agreement will be brought to the SEA membership to be ratified and to the SPS Board of Directors next week for approval.

“We look forward to welcoming our students back in larger numbers. I am grateful to our bargaining teams for putting in very long hours to create a plan that will offer more access for our students to return to in-person learning,” Superintendent Denise Juneau said in a written release.

The agreement includes the commitment to bring pre-K and elementary special education intensive services pathway students back to classrooms on March 29. All other elementary students whose families choose the in-person model will start on April 5, as well as secondary special education intensive pathway students.

SPS and SEA agreed on a hybrid instruction model where students will attend either morning or afternoon in-person class four day a week, with remote teaching and learning on Wednesdays. All families can also opt for 100% remote learning.

More details will be available next week after the two organizations ratify the agreement. The next focus for continued bargaining efforts will be on an agreement to bring middle and high school students back to classrooms.

This agreement comes after Gov. Jay Inslee announced last week that he is issuing an emergency proclamation requiring school districts statewide to offer all K-12 students a hybrid in-person and remote learning model by mid-April. Under the proclamation, all schools are required to offer part time options for in-person classes by April 5 for K-6 students, and then by April 19 for K-12 students.

Schools will still be required to be in compliance with the state Department of Health’s safety guidelines for school facilities, which include distancing and wearing masks.

Seattle Public Schools had previously announced it would be delaying its in-person start date for preschool, kindergarten, first grade, and pathway students, which had been originally set for March 1.

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In the past weeks, the teachers’ union in Seattle had said it was not confident in the district’s plan to keep educators safe from COVID-19.

The district and teachers’ union have been working to come to an agreement.

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