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Kent schools eye March 22 return for preschool through first grade

Hybrid plan with remote and in-person learning

Preschool, kindergarten and first graders could return to in-person learning on March 22 in the Kent School District.

“While we have been actively negotiating with our labor partners details of our safe return to in-person learning plan, our community’s COVID activity levels have continued to decline,” Kent Superintendent Calvin Watts said in a Monday, March 1 statement. “The eligibility and hope for enough supply for educators to be vaccinated are still three or more weeks away. Yet, we are pleased to report we are closer than ever on mutual agreements for a phased-in safe return for our students.”

Chris Reykdal, state superintendent of public instruction, told school districts in mid-February that if they want their new federal COVID-19 relief money, they need to submit reopening plans by March 1.

“Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, all team KSD members have remained committed to our shared goal for a safe return to in-person learning,” Watts said. “I am pleased to share that we have identified a tentative start date for hybrid learning for PreK, kindergarten, first grade and limited in-person services for students with an active Individual Education Plan (IEP) to start in-person learning on March 22.”

Watts did not give an update about when other grades might return to in-person learning.

Watts said bargaining teams are continuing to negotiate details of the elementary in-person and remote learning plan schedules.

“We know families need schedule information to make an informed decision before opting into in-person learning or choosing to stay in remote learning.” Watts said. “We are working together with labor partners to keep bell times for in-person instruction aligned with start times for remote learning. However, we must account for the impact that transportation and in-person health and safety protocols will have on in-person learning schedules. As soon as we have schedule information, we will share it with families, and we will provide a clear, detailed process for families to make a final decision for their learning model.

“We recognize this timeline is a disappointment for students who are looking forward to returning to school in person. We also acknowledge that there are many questions that all families still have, and we will be providing more details in the coming days and weeks.”

The district has submitted its application to the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) for federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) 2 Emergency Relief Funds. These funds can be used through September 2023 to address learning loss due to COVID-19, prepare schools for reopening, COVID-19 testing, and repair and upgrade projects to improve air quality in KSD buildings.

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