Seattle-area school district closes due to coronavirus, will move 23K students to online learning

(Bigstock Photo)

Online learning will be put to the test for a Seattle area school district as it shuts down for two weeks due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Northshore School District Superintendent Michelle Reid announced late Wednesday that all 33 schools will close starting March 5, for up to 14 days. The district will move coursework to a cloud-based online learning platform beginning Monday, March 9.

“Let me be clear: Education is a service to which our district is resolutely committed. It is not a place,” Reid wrote in her letter to parents. “To that end, we are shifting our education from the classroom with four walls to the cloud.”

The district uses various apps and services for its 23,000-plus students, including live video sessions, online chat, and image/video upload. Every student has a Google account via Google Apps for Education. The accounts are managed and monitored by district employees.

Students who need a device and/or internet connection for the two-week closure are asked to fill out a form.

The district held a full-day training for teachers Tuesday to help transition to online education. Reid told KIRO Radio that district leaders were considering the use of Microsoft Teams collaboration app.

“While the idea of online instruction or blended learning is not new to our instructional team, moving instruction fully online is a journey that we will all navigate together,” Reid wrote in the letter.

(Google Image)

The district follows federal law for filtering internet access and teaching online safety. It notes that Google Apps for Education accounts are “covered by more restrictive data privacy practices than ‘regular’ Google accounts, including a restriction on advertising and the use of student data for advertising purposes.”

Google has transformed schools across the country with cheap laptops and free software. But last month New Mexico’s attorney general sued the tech giant, accusing Google of tracking students without their knowledge and permission from parents.

This past September, Google paid a $170 million fine for violating children’s privacy on YouTube.

Parents have the option to terminate their student’s access to electronic tools and resources provided by a school.

“If you do not want your student to use District technology resources, please be aware that your decision to eliminate access to these tools may significantly affect your student’s ability to work collaboratively with his or her peers on class assignments and project, and may impact the development of skills necessary to live and work in this increasingly digital world,” its website reads.

We’ve reached out to the district for more details about its online learning tools.

The district covers cities north of Seattle including Bothell, Woodinville, and Kenmore. It spans across both King County and Snohomish County. Nearly 15 percent of students receive free or reduced-price meals. About 56% of students are Caucasian; 20.3% Asian; 12.4% Hispanic; and 2.1% Black.

A parent volunteer at Woodmoor Elementary tested “presumptive positive” for coronavirus, Reid said in her letter. She noted that 26 schools have been affected via direct or indirect exposure to COVID-19. The district closed Bothell High School and Frank Love Elementary in the past week due to the outbreak.

Seattle has become a U.S. epicenter of the coronavirus. King County public health officials reported 10 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 today, including one additional death. That brings the total for King County to 31 confirmed cases, with nine deaths.

Follow this post for ongoing updates on the novel coronavirus outbreak.

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