Seattle Schools start online, outdoor class could follow

VIDEO: Seattle Public Schools to start online for fall

SEATTLE — On Wednesday afternoon, the Seattle School Board voted unanimously to start school online.

The decision supported the recommendation of Seattle Schools Superintendent Denise Juneau, who said the decision was made with a “heavy heart. “I cannot in good conscience ask our staff, students and community to be in spaces together that could increase the risk of COVID transmission, " Juneau told the board.

The meeting that started at 1 p.m., lasted more than three hours as board members went through the document that the district is required to submit to the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.

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They also amended how grading would be done this year.

Last year, when Seattle switched to online learning, secondary students were given an A or incomplete. The district revealed there were fewer than 30 students in the entire district who received incompletes. This year, there will be letter grades and incompletes, but no one will get a “D” or an “F.”

“We shouldn’t be giving Ds during a pandemic,” Seattle School Board Member Liz Rankin told her peers.

The board also voted on an amendment that would allow them to "reimagine" where instruction can occur. This is the proposal by three school board members to explore the possibility of holding classes outdoors. Outdoor school has the support of the Washington Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Dr. Danette Glassy of Mercer Island Pediatrics said there are many benefits to getting children outdoors. "The fresh air, greater exercise, the exploration and the mental health. The ability to sit and learn and focus is all enhanced by being outside," she said.

Glassy added that there are also many caveats that need to be considered, including transmission rates in the community, and the ability to follow all safety protocols such as masks, distancing and running water so children can wash their hands.

Wednesday's vote gives the district the chance to move forward with the plan that will require help from community partners.

School starts in Seattle on Sept. 2, which gives parents just under three weeks to figure out how they will manage online learning for their children.