July 22, 2020.
Dear Federal Way Public Schools Staff and Parents,
We care about each and every one of our 23,000 scholars and nearly 3,000 staff, and we are committed to making sure our schools are safe places to learn and teach. COVID-19 is the biggest safety challenge we are facing in the 2020-21 school year. I want to thank our parents and staff for bringing forward your insights, feedback, and concerns during various Zoom meetings and surveys in recent weeks.
Last Friday, I shared with you that we were preparing for the possibility of 100% remote learning due to the alarming increase of COVID-19 cases in our region. Most recently, the Washington State Department of Health (DOH), Public Health – Seattle & King County, and the Institute for Disease Modeling (IDM) released a report that suggests if virus transmissions don’t drop, King County school buildings should not reopen this fall. Yesterday, in a meeting with regional superintendents and Public Health – Seattle & King County, we were advised that there is no way at this time to open schools without the risk of significant transmission of COVID-19 based on the recent trajectory of infections in King County.
This deadly virus has taken the lives of 1,465 people in Washington state, with 638 of these in King County, as of July 20, 2020. Recent DOH data indicates the number of cases is increasing across the state, including in King County. King County currently has a 7-day average of roughly 128 cases per day.
Our school buildings house both students and staff, including some who fall into high risk categories. While what we know so far indicates young children are less likely to have severe impacts from COVID-19, this is an ever-evolving situation, and we know older children are capable of spreading the virus, with 11% of cases occurring in children aged 0-19. Students who are asymptomatic may also expose staff, their families, and others in the community, potentially creating a super spreader event. As a result, reopening school buildings for face-to-face instruction at this time creates an untenable risk for students, staff, and the broader community. This is a risk that we are not willing to take.
Federal Way Public Schools has been engaged in ongoing conversation with regional school districts. This week, most of the surrounding districts have decided to start the 2020-21 school year with 100% remote instruction.
For FWPS, this means we will begin the year providing 100% remote learning. We will be working with Public Health – Seattle & King County to monitor when we can reopen schools with our hybrid model. If the rate of infection has diminished, and face-to-face instruction is supported by public health guidelines, we will be prepared to transition to our hybrid model with two days of face-to-face instruction and three days of remote instruction each week.