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Seattle among 35 school districts not meeting state requirement for relief funds

A March 1 deadline to submit further plans to get students back into the classroom has come and gone.

SEATTLE — Seattle Public Schools is one of 35 districts in Washington state that did not meet the March 1 deadline to demonstrate it has furthered its plan to bring more students back to the classroom in order to receive additional COVID-19 relief funding.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal said districts that did not have a viable reopening plan will not receive the funding until they do. That funding will be available for one year however, and the state intends to work with those districts.

The announcement was made Friday, March 12, when Gov. Jay Inslee said he would be issuing an emergency proclamation requiring districts to give all students the option for at least two days of in-person instruction by April 19.

In February, Inslee signed a bill making $714 million available to schools with plans to reopen classrooms, as part of a $2.2 billion statewide relief plan. The money is going to help school districts implement returns to classrooms, with items such as cleaning supplies, hardware to help with social distancing and personal protective equipment, Reykdal previously explained. 

“Open, get the money. Don’t open, you don’t really need the money in this environment,” Reykdal said in February. 

He said districts need to follow guidelines to make campuses safer by allowing for 6 feet between students, requiring the use of personal protective equipment and increased efforts to make school surfaces sanitized.

Seattle Public Schools, however, delayed in-person instruction until late March as negotiations with the teachers' union continue. 

On March 9, the school district rescinded its order that designated some 700 educators as "essential" and would have brought them back to the classroom, whether they received the COVID-19 vaccine or not. The district issued a joint statement with the Seattle Education Association that they are working on an agreement to get more students, including those enrolled in Special Education Intensive Service Pathways and preschoolers, back by March 29.

The district and teacher's union continues to negotiate the return of students in kindergarten through first grade, as directed by the school board on Feb. 25.