Western Washington School Districts Experiment with Reopening Plans

Sophie Drees

     After Governor Inslee passed a state mandate requiring K-12 schools to open by April 19th, many school districts are now in a reopening limbo.

     Districts like Northshore, Seattle Public, Edmonds, and Lake Washington have similar regulations to keep students safe. Across all districts, the main commonality is choice. Parents and children have the ability to opt-in to hybrid learning or stay remote.

     Additionally, safety is a primary concern for each district. Students who have symptoms of COVID-19, are sick, or have been in contact with someone who has COVID-19, must stay home and quarantine themselves. All of the districts also require students to take a daily health screening prior to returning to school. “They make us do a health screening every time we go in-person to school, just to make sure we aren’t sick or have Covid,” said Suri Lau, a 7th grader in the Seattle Public School District. All students are also required to wear masks throughout the school day in all mentioned Districts. “Students and adults are required to wear masks,” said Roy Kindelberger, a fourth, fifth, and sixth grade intensive support special education teacher in the Edmonds School District. 

     However, when it comes to hybrid structure, plans between districts diverge. In Lake Washington, School District elementary students attend school four days a week to match with the secondary schools’ schedule. While in Seattle Public School District, one school only goes in-person two days a week. “But Wednesday-Friday is all remote because our school could not get enough students to want in-person,” said Lau. Districts that do not base which cohort a student is in via address and are basing it off of last-name like Edmonds School District, are allowing students with siblings that share the same house but not the same last name to attend school together. 

     With the new hybrid schedule, both teachers and students are having to adjust to the changes. “It’s just different. I have to adjust. I’ve had more one-on-one time (with social distance) with students. And I’m able to hit more skills with hybrid. The Challenging part, would be I only see the students twice a week,” said Kindelberger. Students seem to share the same opinion as teachers. “It’s actually not too bad. It’s just been a pain to walk around when you haven’t been doing much for a while,” said Lau.

     In Northshore, Edmonds, Seattle public, and Lake Washington school districts, free meals are provided for students when they are in-person at select locations. Kids are provided lunch as my school heads off in the afternoon,” said Lau. When walking in hallways and in classes, students must be six feet apart except for in Lake Washington School District, which is only requiring a three foot distance for elementary students. “Maintaining social distance in the hallways is a bit difficult but my school does a thing where you let each grade out one at a time starting with 8th and slowly going down to 6th,” said Lau.

     Classrooms will also need to be cleaned in between classes in order to limit the potential spread of germs. Students in Northshore, Edmonds, or Lake Washington that take the bus each day to school may have assigned seats in order to maintain social distancing. Bus drivers will also clean their busses in between student uses. “Students are assigned seats and they are sanitized after use,” said Kindelberger. 

     In Seattle public schools, students in grades 6-12 will be provided with Orca cards for public transportation to and from school. 

      Despite these School Districts’ different reopening plans, all are hoping to offer 100% in-person learning for families who opt-in next fall.