A student places their hand on the car window while talking to third grade teacher Nichole Rutherford at a supplies pick-up day at Lakeland Elementary on Sept. 3. Olivia Sullivan/the Mirror

A student places their hand on the car window while talking to third grade teacher Nichole Rutherford at a supplies pick-up day at Lakeland Elementary on Sept. 3. Olivia Sullivan/the Mirror

Online learning to continue through 2020 for FWPS

Federal Way’s COVID-19 rates are too high to return to classrooms yet, superintendent says.

Students in the Federal Way Public Schools district will remain in online learning through December, the district announced Oct. 7.

Superintendent Dr. Tammy Campbell sent an email notifying parents and families on Wednesday morning about the schooling update.

Federal Way’s COVID-19 rates continue to be among the highest in King County, which is “well above the threshold to return to in-person instruction,” Campbell wrote.

The district’s threshold to return to classrooms would be 75 cases or less over a two-week period, based on guidance from the Washington State Department of Health.

King County’s COVID-19 case average of 53 per 100,000 over 14 days (for Sept. 12-26).

As of Oct. 6, Federal Way’s rate is 128 cases per 100,000 over 14 days from Sept. 22 to Oct. 6. Campbell said some areas of the Federal Way district are seeing as many as 185 cases over a two-week time period.

“We don’t anticipate rates in Federal Way staying below the threshold of 75 per 100,000 for the duration needed to reopen our schools in time to reopen before winter break,” she said in the email.

When it is safe, the district plans to prioritize creating a transition plan of face-to-face learning starting with the youngest learners first, which includes preschool, kindergarten and first grade.

“We want to practice a slow and gradual return to prevent a ‘false start’ of reopening,” Campbell said.

Some school districts, such as the Puyallup School District, prepared to reopen schools in October, but canceled plans as virus cases began to rise in Pierce County and decided to continue virtual learning, The News Tribune reported on Oct. 1.

Students in the Bellevue School District could return to classrooms by Nov. 9, and the Issaquah School District plans to having kindergarten and first grade students return around Oct. 19, The Seattle Times recently reported.

“This is disruptive for staff and families who have to quickly change plans,” Campbell said, noting a slow and gradual return will minimize disruption, and allow staff and families to plan and make arrangements. “Our goal is to prevent COVID-19 from spreading in our community and reopen safely, with minimal disruption.”

The Federal Way Education Association union is in agreement with the district’s decision.

Virus outbreaks forcing other school districts in the nation to close is traumatizing for students and very difficult for families and educators trying to teach, said Shannon McCann, FWEA president. McCann said the decision to remain virtual through December provides stability for the Federal Way community.

“Remote learning can be challenging for students and families and it is a tremendous amount of work for our FWEA educators, but we’d rather be in remote learning than be forced attending the funeral of a child or family member,” she said.

The nation’s 210,000-plus virus-related deaths include both students and educators, she said.

“These deaths were preventable and we do not want losses like that in Federal Way.”

For more information, visit FWPS.org.


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Supplies is prepped and ready for pick-up at Lakeland Elementary on Sept. 3, to help families adjust to remote learning. Olivia Sullivan/the Mirror

Supplies is prepped and ready for pick-up at Lakeland Elementary on Sept. 3, to help families adjust to remote learning. Olivia Sullivan/the Mirror

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