Under looming pressure from the state to get students back into classrooms, the Federal Way Public Schools district recently announced plans for middle and high school students.
As of March 15, preschool, kindergarten and first grade students returned to in-person instruction across the district. The district is offering hybrid in-person and remote learning options. Data shows more than half of kindergarten and first grade students have chosen to remain in remote learning.
Gov. Jay Inslee announced last week that all schools across the state must provide at least two days of in-person instruction to students in kindergarten through sixth grade by April 5, and for students in grades seven to 12 by April 19.
By April 19, all districts must offer at least 30% of average weekly instructional hours on campus for those students who wish to attend in person. “Under no circumstances” can that be less than two days a week, which includes partial days, the Mirror previously reported.
On March 18, FWPS informed parents of return schedules for middle and high schools students. Beginning April 19, students in grades six to 12 have the option to attend in-person instruction after their regularly scheduled remote Zoom classes.
With about nine weeks left in the school year, the district said, this model is the “least disruptive” to students and families in the current learning environment.
When students attend in-person instruction on campus, social distancing and mask wearing is required. Additional academic support time will also be offered every Wednesday, according to the district.
The Federal Way district is building a robust program that promotes more support for instructional time and mental health than students currently have, said FWEA President Shannon McCann.
With the FWPS model for middle and high school students, students still have access to Advanced Placement and specialized courses. The model tailors the in-person support to students’ needs, limits exposure of high-risk students and teachers, and allows students to be with their friends, McCann said.
James Brown, a Thomas Jefferson parent, said going to a hybrid model would mean less time learning.
Brown has a senior at TJHS who is taking a full schedule of International Baccalaureate courses. If the district was to follow the plans of surrounding districts, with two days of in-person learning and three days of asynchronous learning, Brown questions how that would be better than remote instruction with a real teacher four days a week.
His daughter and her friends often note how difficult it is to learn when they don’t have access to ask a teacher questions and be responsive to their needs in the moment.
“I want [my daughter] to be able to complete those classes and get as much instruction from a person in real time as possible. Anything less would be unfair,” Brown said. “I believe this is a plan that allows students who crave in-person instruction to get it, but still promotes the most instruction time for the last quarter of school.”
Despite this, many parents are disappointed in the middle and high school in-person plan.
“I’m frustrated,” said Karla Lewis, a parent of three students in the FWPS district. “At this point this is not educating any of my children … This is emotionally, socially stunting them.”
With neighboring districts conducting in-person instruction multiple days a week, Lewis is questioning why Federal Way isn’t able to offer the same to their students.
While students will remain in their remote classes with their current teachers, students who attend the after school in-person instruction time may be with other educators.
Compared to a teacher who has been working with their students for the entire year, Lewis said the switch in instructors for after school support is not beneficial to the learning process.
Both of Lewis’ older kids, who attend Illahee Middle School and Todd Beamer High School, have declined the in-person supports model “because it’s not really supportive,” she said.
Parents and guardians must opt their child in for this in-person model. The district has sent a survey to families of students in middle and high school, and responses are due by 11:55 p.m. Wednesday, March 24. The survey responses are your final choice for the remainder of the school year, FWPS noted.
For other grades, the district in-person plans include:
• Grades 2-3 and special education students in grades 3-5 returning to classrooms Monday, March 29.
• Grades 4-5 returning to classrooms Thursday, April 1.
• Grades 6-12 offered in-person academic and emotional support time Monday, April 19.
For more information, visit fwps.org.