At least 10,000 middle- and high-school students in Seattle will step inside school buildings for the first time this academic year next week, a decision approved by the district’s teachers union Wednesday evening.

After months of negotiations, the Seattle Education Association, which represents 7,000 Seattle Public Schools employees, has ratified an agreement to bring older students back to in-person learning on Monday. About 81% of SEA members approved the agreement, according to a spokesperson for the Washington Education Association.

In an effort to meet Gov. Jay Inslee’s deadline to provide in-person instruction for secondary students by April 19, the district rushed to pull together a draft of a hybrid learning model. Some Seattle School Board members voiced their frustrations with the deadline before voting unanimously to approve the new model last week.

In a statement Thursday, SEA President Jennifer Matter said she thanked the bargaining team for achieving this agreement on Governor Inslee’s nearly impossibly short timeline.”

About 80% of more than 26,000 families of secondary students responded to a district survey about in-person learning, SPS spokesperson Tim Robinson said. Of those, about half opted for in-person learning, while 17% hadn’t responded as of Thursday morning. Schools are working to reach out to those individual students, Robinson said.

Families have until April 23 to change their minds by calling the school — after that, they’ll need to go through a formal appeals process, he said.


Under the hybrid instructional schedule, middle and high school students will get the bulk of their live instruction in the morning online, and the afternoons would be for teachers to reinforce the material and answer questions from students — keeping the same general shape as the remote-only schedule.

In-person students will attend twice a week on alternating days in that afternoon time, though schools will have some discretion over how to shape their days. 

The schedule clips the live instruction time for remote learners by about 15 minutes, with time added in the afternoons. And to meet the mandatory minimum in-person instructional hour requirement from the state, schools will need to work in six additional hours of in-person time. The district suggests schools do this by creating a different schedule in the final week of classes. 

The model also provides in-person students just 45 minutes to eat lunch and commute to schools after attending morning classes online.

Elementary students in Seattle returned to classrooms April 5.