According to a tentative agreement between Seattle Public Schools and its teachers union, the district will now start its remote return to school on the Friday before Labor Day, two days after the scheduled start date.
The district last week said it was considering delaying the start of the school year last week, explaining that the extra time would allow teachers to train on “remote learning best practices.”
The official Sept. 4 start date for the 2020-21 school year will allow educators six days of training on “common learning platforms, culturally responsive instruction in a remote setting, racial equity, and best practices in remote instruction to ensure students have the best education possible,” according to a Monday Seattle Education Association statement, which was also posted on the school district’s website.
“I am really grateful to the hard-working bargaining team and our educators,” said district superintendent Denise Juneau in the statement. “We are committed to doing whatever it takes to ensure that every child can achieve in any learning environment. These additional days of professional development will help us meet that commitment.”
The Seattle School Board still needs to approve the new start date.
The district announced back in January — after approving a snow day — that the 2020-21 school year could start for “the first time in many years” before Labor Day, due to its contract with teachers that set the first day of school as the first Wednesday in September.
The district and the union, Seattle Education Association (SEA), have had continuous discussions about work expectations for this fall, at times disagreeing over whether instructors would provide in-person services. This year’s discussions mark the third straight summer when bargaining talks have left the community with uncertainty over the start of the school year.
“This agreement gives us additional time and training to improve our remote education practices and is the first step in ensuring a more equitable and inclusive system,” SEA president Jennifer Matter said in the statement. “We’re looking forward to being back with our students and doing everything we can to meet their needs, particularly those who face the most barriers in remote learning.”
The School Board approved a remote learning plan for students last week, which explores the idea of outdoor classes, reinforces teaching of ethnic studies, calls for expanding existing community partnerships and promises to track student engagement online — but has still been criticized for its lack of detail.
While the district has said some in-person, special-education services would be available in the fall, and that reopening buildings for instruction would be a decision made with county health officers, SEA officials have proposed more specific requirements, according to a recent bargaining summary document from the union.
Several other school districts in the region have delayed the start of school, including the Kent School District, which said last week that it was planning to push its start date from Aug. 27 to Sept. 3, according to the Kent Reporter. The district said it wanted to “ensure additional professional learning days and flexible days for transition as needed for COVID-19 related closures,” according to a statement on its website.
In Seattle, the first day of preschool and kindergarten will not change from the scheduled Sept. 8 start date, the district added.
Seattle Times staff reporter Dahlia Bazzaz contributed to this story.