Bellevue students may be among first in Seattle area to return to classroom

Bellevue elementary students could be back in the classroom for face-to-face learning by Nov. 9, under a plan unveiled Tuesday by school district officials.

The announcement makes Bellevue the largest King County school district to set a target date for bringing some kids back into the classroom. Neighboring Issaquah has also set a target date.

If the date sticks, Bellevue, with an enrollment of 21,000 students, will be one of a handful of districts in the county to phase out of a fully online learning model since the start of the pandemic. Issaquah plans to bring back kindergarten and first grade students Oct. 19. Other districts that have set target dates to bring back elementary students include Tahoma, Mercer Island, Vashon Island and Riverview.

At 53 cases per 100,000 people for the past two weeks, King County is within range of the state’s guidelines to bring young students back to schools in a hybrid model. But other large districts in the region such as Seattle Public Schools, Lake Washington, Highline and Northshore have not committed to target dates.

“We have been in that moderate range for a little bit of time now. That is why we are looking at coming back,” said Melissa deVita, deputy superintendent of finance and operations.

Bellevue officials used loose language around the target dates, saying the district would constantly monitor health indicators before progressing.

Many districts in the area, including Bellevue, have already started educating some kids with disabilities in person. But plans to take the next step and reintroduce the general student population have varied from nonexistent to robust. The state has not mandated that districts use the same metrics in their reopening decision-making, instead offering guidelines.

Bellevue’s staged plan would bring kindergarten through second grade students back into classes fulltime, and grades three through five part-time. District officials said they do not have a timeline yet for reintroducing middle and high school students.

Bellevue’s reopening phases follow state guidelines, which suggest bringing some students back when infection rates are between 25 to 75 cases per 100,000 people for two weeks. King County’s current infection rate is within that range, at 53 cases per 100,000. Bellevue has an additional requirement for test positivity rates remaining under 5%. The county’s positive test rate is 3.5%.

Districts haven’t always followed their target dates.

Puyallup and Tacoma school districts announced plans to start in-person learning this month that were later retracted. Puyallup said it backed out based on input from Pierce County Health officials, and Tacoma said it didn’t have sufficient masks.

Source Article