Update, Aug. 31: The Seattle Education Association union approved a draft of the agreement over the weekend. This story has been updated to reflect that news. You can read the full document here.

The first week of school, which starts Sept. 4, will be a dry run with shorter days, according to an agreement between Seattle Public Schools and its teachers union. Regular classes start Sept. 14.

Students with disabilities may receive services in person on a case-by-case basis, and teachers must respond to messages from families within two business days.

The agreement, obtained by The Seattle Times on Friday, outlines these and other work expectations for roughly 6,000 Seattle Education Association (SEA) members and sets parameters for online classes as the state’s largest school district begins a new year of educating students during the coronavirus pandemic.

The deal is the result of two months of tense negotiations that have left parents on edge about what to expect from schools in the fall. If approved by a representative assembly of union members this weekend, it will supplement the current, three-year contract between SPS and the union, which represents teachers, instructional aides, nurses, counselors, substitutes and front-office workers.

Much of the agreement is focused on improving communication with families, guaranteeing district-issued technology for students and staff (with translation support), and reinforcing existing educational requirements under state and federal law. Teachers also secured two more days of professional development before the start of the school year.


The first week of school will be a soft start, with two hours per day of live instruction that focuses on student emotional well-being and creating community within classes. Teachers will use the rest of the time for training, lesson planning, and connecting with families on their needs for the year. The district is planning to distribute technology to students who don’t have it during this period.

Other highlights from the draft:

  • In-person learning and services for students with disabilities will be determined on a case-by-case basis.
  • Special educators will receive a higher stipend than under the current contract for taking on additional students and amending student plans due to coronavirus.
  • Late paperwork will trigger a meeting with supervisors, but not a reduction in pay.

And following a spring that yielded spotty information on how many students were learning, attendance will be both proactive and reactive: Students can be marked present by showing up to online class or engaging with school materials and the teacher. If they are still not “showing up,” teachers and school staff will reach out to check in with families and students. The district won’t penalize students with suspensions or expulsions for being absent.

Other school districts across the region have also reached agreements, including Northshore, Kent and Shoreline.