SPS welcomes middle and high-schoolers back for in-person teaching

SEATTLE — Seattle Public Schools welcomed middle and high-schools back for in-person learning Monday.

This comes two weeks after pre-K to fifth-grade students in the district began hybrid schooling.

Gov. Jay Inslee signed a proclamation in March requiring all public K-12 schools to provide an in-person option by April 19. Districts around the state have been phasing students back in over the last few weeks, beginning with younger grades and those in special education.

But some parents of students from Broadview-Thomson PreK-8 School in Seattle are reluctant to send their children to school because of a nearby homeless encampment.

That encampment is just past two fences behind the school. School officials said that will keep the students safe.

There was a similar issue on Capitol Hill, but the issue was resolved and the encampment in question is now gone.

Looking at Miller Playfield on this unusually warm April on Sunday, it is hard to imagine that for months, it was filled with a giant homeless encampment that spilled out onto the street.

Late last week, the city of Seattle finished dismantling the encampment and, it stated, moving those who wanted it inside.

“So the homeless built an encampment all around this, you know, beautiful park,” said Baisy World. “I don’t really blame them.”

The school instruction assistant and youth coach was wrapping up a basketball practice. He sympathizes with those who had to live at the encampment.

But World said the park has come back alive now that it has been removed just yards away from Meany Middle School.

“It has, it has,” he said. “A lot more kids are out. Like, I’ve been practicing here, sports teams, for the last couple of days.”

Just 8 miles to the northwest, Kristina Bartelson is painting a welcome sign outside Broadview-Thomson K-through-8 School — a sight that’s similarly seen near schools across the city.

“We want to make sure people know we’re expecting them, and we’re welcoming them,” she said.

She said the school district is taking several steps to keep the students safe.

“They’re limiting the size of the classrooms,” said Bartelson. “They’re limiting the hallways each classroom can walk down.”

But this is happening in the shadow of a homeless encampment adjacent to the school, and it won’t be easy to brush aside the concerns of some parents.

“There is no other school that have encampment next to it in the union, let alone the state or the city,” said parent Ocean Greens.

Indeed, Greens said he won’t allow his children to come to this school until the encampment is gone.

“The children deserve the path to school to be free and safe,” he said, “so they can walk to school safe.”

So far, just about half of the district’s students are opting for some in-person learning.

But they and their parents have until April 23 to change their decision for or against in-person learning.