Teachers placed signs in front of Sherwood Forest Elementary School in Federal Way for students in April 2020. Olivia Sullivan/the Mirror

Pre-K, first grade students to return to Federal Way classrooms March 8

School district offers hybrid and remote learning; some students may get new teacher to accommodate learning model options.

Amanda Ferguson’s first-grade son learned how to read through the help of countless Zoom classes and the virtual dedication of his Lakeland Elementary School teacher.

With recent announcements from the district about returning to in-person learning, Ferguson is concerned about losing this “thriving” connection once the district’s youngest learners return to classrooms early next month.

Federal Way Public Schools initially announced a return date of March 1, but on Thursday, the district pushed back to date. Now, students in pre-kindergarten through first grade will return to classrooms one week later Monday, March 8.

In addition to the youngest elementary school students, students in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade receiving special education services who have opted for the hybrid model will also return to school March 8.

Hybrid instruction consists of either morning or afternoon in-person instruction sessions, and families will be assigned a specific time, the district stated in a Feb. 5 newsletter. This model allows for four days of half-day sessions and one day of remote instruction per week.

In-person learning consists of core instruction (language arts and math). Information about allotted time for recess or meals is not publicly available, according to the district. Students and teachers must remain socially distanced and wear masks at all times during the two-and-a-half-hour school day.

Classroom sanitization, health screenings and frequent handwashing will also be part of the daily routines.

Parent survey concerns

The district conducted a survey in recent weeks allowing families to select their preferred options of instruction moving forward, which included continuing with fully remote learning or shifting to a hybrid in-person structure.

Families who did not indicate a preference by completing the survey or contacting their school will remain in the fully remote instruction model, the district said.

Some parents in the district said they were unaware their survey answers would be a final decision.

“In no way was it stated the survey we were taking was permanent,” Ferguson, who expressed her concerns on social media, told the Mirror. “Most concerning to me is the lack of transparency … Families should have been provided with all the information about the learning options so they could make an informed decision for themselves.”

Tiffany LaFontaine, a parent of two students in the Federal Way district who also serves on the Parent Advisory to the Superintendent group, said she was under the impression the survey was a “temperature check” to gauge how families felt about returning to classrooms.

“I’m a parent who reads every scrap of paper that comes from the district and it wasn’t clear,” LaFontaine said.

Both Ferguson and LaFontaine initially opted for their students to participate in hybrid learning, but each parent said they are now rethinking their decision.

The survey responses were necessary for the district to establish bus schedules, class rosters and determine staffing, said Kassie Swenson, chief of communications for FWPS. Though not included in the initial announcement, if parents selected the hybrid learning option and want to switch to remote learning, Swenson said families will be able to do so and the process for that change will be available this week.

“The district was clear in its communication to parents,” said Swenson, adding that the district asked parents to make a decision for the “remainder of the school year.” Schools also made additional phone calls to parents who did not complete the survey in order to confirm their choice.

In order to provide the two options of in-person and remote learning, the district notified parents that students “may be reassigned to a different teacher during this transition.”

While students will stay at the same school they’ve been attending all year, the district is “making every effort to keep teachers at the same school,” Swenson said. “We’re still reviewing the data for staff who’ve requested accommodations and how that matches up with parent requests for hybrid.”

On Feb. 10, the district announced that after receiving feedback, parents and guardians of students in pre-kindergarten through fifth grade, select special education program students, and the Employment Transition program will have another opportunity to confirm their final choice for 100% remote or hybrid for the remainder of the school year.

The deadline for confirmation is 11:55 p.m. Friday, Feb. 19. Families who do not confirm will remain with their original selection for their child’s placement.

COVID vaccines

FWPS officials are continuing to coordinate with health providers for district staff to have access to COVID-19 vaccinations as soon as they are eligible under the state’s vaccination plan, the district said.

“The vaccine might not be available for school staff before our hybrid model begins on March 1, however, this does not stop us from moving forward with starting our hybrid model on schedule, in alignment with guidance from the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI),” according to Superintendent Dr. Tammy Campbell.

Being vaccinated is “not a precondition for returning to in-person instruction,” said Swenson, noting guidance from Gov. Jay Inslee’s Office, Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI), and Department of Health (DOH).

In negotiated agreements with the Federal Way Education Association union, staff can request remote work if they are at a higher risk of severe illness or death due to COVID-19; if the employee cannot wear the required personal protective equipment; live in a household with an individual that is at higher risk of severe illness or death from COVID-19; or must care for their child amid school closures and childcare difficulties. An employee who does not fit within the noted conditions may also request to remain remote, Swenson said.

Two separate Zoom information sessions will be held by the district for parents with students in pre-kindergarten through first grade Wednesday, Feb. 24, with meeting details to be announced in the coming days.

Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@federalwaymirror.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.federalwaymirror.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 300 words or less.

More in News

The mascot of Illahee Middle School, located at 36001 1st Ave. S., is under consideration due to a new law prohibiting the inappropriate use of Native American symbols and imagery. Olivia Sullivan/the Mirror
State law could affect mascots of three Federal Way schools

Three Federal Way schools may be affected by a recent bill approved… Continue reading

A Cymbidium Orchid captured at the Rhododendron Species Botanical Garden in Federal Way. Olivia Sullivan/the Mirror
‘A Mother’s Prayer’ by Robert J. Darrigan

“A Mother’s Prayer” A Mother’s Prayer, Sustains her seed with a heavenly… Continue reading

Photo courtesy of Vickie Chynoweth
Well-fed from the Federal Way Farmers Market: Grilled chicken thighs with rhubarb sauce

This week’s recipe features fresh rhubarb, asparagus, olive oil and pita bread found at the Saturday market.

File photo
Serial slapper returns, sexually assaults two women in Federal Way | Police blotter

Following is a sample from the Federal Way police log April 28 to May 4.

Federal Way approves $3 hazard pay raise for grocery store workers

The city ordinance was passed with a 5-2 council vote on May 4.

Courtesy photo
Police search for suspect in fatal shooting of 8-year-old Federal Way girl

The girl’s father was initially arrested by police, but further investigation has revealed a new suspect.

Governor Jay Inslee. Sound Publishing file photo
New laws will tax the rich, offer aid to low-income workers

Inslee signs bill creating capital gains tax; foes are challenging it in court as unconstitutional.

U.S. Department of Justice. Courtesy image
Federal Way man sentenced to 5 years in prison after gun, drug trafficking

The 35-year-old man sold four firearms — two of which were stolen — to undercover federal agents.

Most Read