COURTESY PHOTO, Kent School District

COURTESY PHOTO, Kent School District

Kent School District: ‘We cannot predict the return date for in-person learning’

Neighboring districts set return dates; Kent claims labor negotiations holding things up

While neighboring districts have set dates to return to in-person learning, the Kent School District staff said in a Thursday, Feb. 11 statement that “where we stand today with our labor negotiations, we cannot predict the return date for in-person learning.”

All of the following districts are implementing hybrid instruction, part-time in the classroom and part-time remote learning.

Federal Way Public Schools announced a return date of March 8 for pre-kindergarten through first grade. The Auburn School District said preschool through second-grade will return March 3. Renton set a March 3 date for preschool and kindergarten. Highline Public Schools plan to have elementary students return March 1. Tahoma schools already have reopened for K-3.

“KSD (Kent School District) leaders are actively negotiating with Kent Education Association and Kent Principals Association and have initiated bargaining conversations with all labor partners about returning to in-person learning,” the district said in a hybrid learning update statement. “While we were planning for a Feb. 22 start for our preK-1 students and hopeful that lower COVID-19 community activity rates would support this, only one of these conditions for reopening has been realized.

“All Team KSD members remain committed to our shared goals for a safe return to in-person learning; however, based on where we stand today with our labor negotiations, we cannot predict the return date for in-person learning.”

District staff said returning to in-person learning remains a priority.

“Nearly half of our families that have indicated they are ready to have their students return to buildings to learn in each of our previous three surveys this last year,” the district said.

Building leaders and COVID-19 site supervisors have been working to prepare school facilities to safely welcome back students and staff following strict guidance from public health officials.

“We know that vaccines are here,” according to the district statement. “We were excited to learn that educators will be offered the vaccine earlier than we first expected. We have continued to watch together with you in anticipation of news about when this opportunity will begin.

“We have been advised by local, state, and federal public health officials we should not delay our plans and return to in-person learning as soon as possible. And yet, we know that being fully vaccinated is a priority for most of our staff to feel comfortable returning to work.”

Superintendent Calvin Watts updated the Kent School Board during its Feb. 10 meeting.

“In the paraphrased words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the ultimate measure of a leader is not where they stand in times of comfort and convenience; it is where they stand in times of challenge and controversy,” Watts said. “Indeed, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced all of us to learn to be more adaptive as guidance continues to change frequently.”

Human Resources leaders are committed to continuing the bargaining process with the district’s labor partners about these plans, according to district staff.

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