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A student guide to in-person learning & the COVID-19 vaccines!

This past year and a half has been… a lot! Everyone’s life changed in one way or another. After more than a year of online learning, Seattle Public Schools (SPS) will be returning to in-person classes for the 2021-2022 school year. With COVID-19 still being a big concern, you’re probably wondering what changes you can expect to see and how things will be different from before? 

At Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle, we want to say this: We see you. We want you to feel confident, comfortable, and supported! So, we created this page and the ‘Young, Vaxxed & Back to School’ youth vaccine guide below to give you the information you need to navigate the vaccine and going back to school with new mandates in place. Living through a global pandemic is no joke, but you made it this far! Keep staying safe and informed – let’s stop the spread together!  

Ready to get the full run down?

Publication Release: August 18, 2021

school mandates

Classes begin September 1, 2021! As students & staff transition back to in-person instruction, the health and safety of everyone on each campus will continue to be a top priority. Here are some of the most important safety guidelines students and staff will be expected to adhere to during the upcoming school year! For a full and extensive list of district mandates, visit the Seattle Public Schools website below! 

Masks and cloth face coverings (when used and worn correctly) can help prevent the spread of COVID-19.  Even if you are vaccinated, masks will still be required for all school personnel, PreK-12 students, families, volunteers, and visitors for the 2021-22 school year. This includes in classrooms, common areas, on school busses, and outdoors on SPS properties. 

Schools will have extra masks on hand for students who may need them.

Enhanced PPE will be provided to staff who have contact with students who are unable to wear masks.


  • Make sure masks cover your mouth and nose and fit snugly against the sides of your face and under the chin. Gaps can let air with respiratory droplets leak in and around the edges of the mask.
  • Use a cloth mask with multiple layers of fabric, or wear a disposable mask underneath a cloth mask.
  • Choose masks with a nose wire or mask fitter

Mask Exceptions: Students, staff, and visitors may remove their masks briefly for eating and drinking. For school photos, students may briefly remove their mask for individual photo-taking (inside or outside) and group photos (outside only).

COVID-19 Testing: SPS will provide free in-school COVID-19 testing for students and staff who have been exposed to COVID-19 or have COVID-like symptoms.

SPS will also implement Protected Health Care Rooms on each campus so that any student or staff member who report COVID-19 symptoms can immediately isolate from others and be sent home as soon as possible. Staff who monitor the rooms will also be provided with enhanced PPE.

Contact Tracing: If there is a positive COVID-19 case, our central nursing team will work with Public Health to manage contact tracing. SPS will notify close contacts, staff, and school community, as needed.

The Washington Department of Health currently defines a close contact as an individual  who was within (6) feet of a person with COVID-19 for at least 15 total minutes over a 24-hour period during the period of time when the person with COVID-19 was infectious. 

DOH’s definition of a close contact excludes students in an indoor classroom who were at least (3) feet away from an infected student when: (a) both students were wearing face coverings/masks and (b) other prevention strategies were in place.

Health Screenings: Daily health screenings will no longer be used and are no longer required by the Department of Health.

Hand washing is important to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and schools will continue to teach students proper hand washing, reinforce positive behaviors, and provide adequate supplies.

Students and staff should wash their hands with soap and water frequently or use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available. Hand washing will be encouraged throughout the day, especially when students are changing classrooms, prior to eating, and after playing outside or using the restroom.

Cleaning: Classrooms and common spaces will be cleaned and disinfected each day.

Because the risk of transmitting COVID-19 through surfaces is low, students can share art materials, PE equipment, and books. However, students and staff will be encouraged to wash their hands between classes.

Shared Materials for Performing Arts: Shared equipment will be reduced to the degree possible. Students will use hand sanitizer before using any shared equipment. Students should have their own mouthpieces for shared instruments. Shared instruments will sit for 24 hours between uses.

Specialized PPE: Instrumental music, choir, and theatre students will continue to use special PPE to reduce airborne COVID-19 spread.

Physical Distancing:

  • In classrooms, to the extent possible, students should practice physical distancing of (3) feet. Staff will should practice physical distancing of (6) feet to the extent possible per Labor & Industries guidance.
  • In common areas, to the extent possible, maximize physical distancing between students with the goal to maintain (6) feet physical distance per our agreement with SEA.
  • When possible, students will face the same direction in class or be staggered or sitting at an angle so they aren’t sitting directly across from each other.
  • At lunch, when students have their masks removed, they will sit so that they don’t face each other directly.
  • In hallways, schools will continue to support physical distancing and directional flow.

Use of cohorts: Cohorts (keeping small groups of students together during the school day) will not be used in 2021-22 except for lunchrooms or alternative lunch spaces to support contact tracing.

Class size: In-person class size will return to pre-pandemic teacher-to-student ratios.

Plexiglass Barriers: No additional plexiglass barriers will be installed in school buildings. Barriers are no longer listed as an effective COVID-19 prevention strategy in schools by DOH or the CDC.

The first three days of school will be devoted to learning health and safety protocols and to curriculum prioritizing social emotional learning, restorative practices, and student well-being.

Required training: All in-person staff must take mandatory COVID-19 protocol training to help reduce the transmission of COVID-19 in school communities.

In-School Assemblies: In-school assemblies are not encouraged. Schools  must continue to follow DOH guidance for in-school assemblies, including physical distancing recommendations.

After School Gatherings: After school gatherings such as curriculum nights, concerts, and plays are not encouraged. All family meetings will be remote from Sept. 1- October 29 in response to the increase of COVID-19 transmission in our community. This means curricula nights etc., will also be remote.

Athletics: Both high school and middle school students will be allowed to participate in athletics. 

COVID-19 testing is required for athletes and coaches participating in indoor high-risk sports who are not vaccinated. High risk indoor sports include: boys and girls basketball, wrestling, and cheer, if indoors. These sports happen during our winter season, which starts around mid-November.

Vaccination status of students and staff is confidential medical information, and as such, SPS will not be disclosing any staff or student vaccination status.

For Staff: On August 18, Governor Inslee announced that the State of Washington’s COVID-19 vaccine requirement will be extended to K-12 educators, school staff, coaches, bus drivers, school volunteers and others working in school facilities. SPS is complying with the legal mandate that all K–12 school district employees receive a COVID-19 vaccination or be approved for a medical or religious exemption by October 18, 2021.

For Students: SPS will continue to promote vaccinations. As soon as the COVID-19 vaccine is approved for children under 12, SPS will partner with medical providers to hold in-school clinics. The State Board of Health, which sets the Washington state immunization requirements for students, has not currently required the COVID-19 vaccine for students.

vaccine overview

When it comes to the COVD-19 vaccines, there is a LOT to learn! It can be difficult trying to decide where to begin with it all. The best way to start is by understanding the basics! 

To help you get going, here are our Top #VaxxedFacts every student should know!  

COVID-19 is a disease caused by a virus called SARS-CoV-2. Most people with COVID-19 have mild symptoms, but some people become severely ill.  

The vaccines are safe and effective and will protect you from getting severely ill from COVID-19.  

Although most people with COVID-19 get better within weeks, some experience “long-haul” conditions that can affect anything from the heart, kidney, immune system, and more.  

As of July 22nd, 2021, nearly 413,000,000 children have tested positive for COVID-19.  

Different variations of COVID-19 are spreading around the country, especially in places where vaccinations are low. The main variant of concern is the delta variant. It spreads 2 to 3 times faster than the original version.  

You can protect yourself and others by getting vaccinated. If you are not vaccinated, you can keep yourself and the community safe by: 

  • wearing a mask,
  • washing your hands frequently,
  • and standing 6 feet apart whenever possible.  

Cases are rising in Washington State, and 95% of all the cases are among unvaccinated people.  

Many in the community cannot get vaccinated. For example, kids under the age of 12 or those who immune system is compromised because of an infection or cancer. By doing your part to stop the spread of COVID-19, you can help keep them safe.  

You are considered fully vaccinated 2 weeks after your second dose of Pfizer, which should be taken 21 days after your first dose (or 42 days when a delay is unavoidable). 


How do vaccines work? What are the side effects? Why are vaccinated people still getting COVID-19? If you’ve got questions that need answers, look no further! Check out these super important questions students have been asking about the vaccine! 

YES! Don’t believe the hype. Everyone can catch COVID-19 and spread the virus – including teens, children, and even babies. As of July 2021, 413,000,000 children in the U.S. have tested positive for COVID-19This is why it’s as important for youth to get vaccinated as it is for adults to stop the spread of the virus. While the symptoms and likelihood of getting seriously ill may not “be as bad” for kids, no one is 100% immune! Plus, even if you don’t get sick, you could pass it on to someone who might – like family, friends, and people at school. 

Vaccines teach our immune system how to fight future infections. You can think of them as a “training session” for your immune system. Your body will learn everything it needs to know about fighting off the virus before it can turn into illness! And don’t worry; COVID-19 vaccines do not contain the coronavirus, so they can’t give you COVID-19. Once the vaccine completes its mission, the material from the injection is destroyed and leaves your body.  

All the COVID-19 vaccines have gone through and will continue to go through the most intensive vaccine safety monitoring in U.S. history. Currently, if you are under 18, you can get the Pfizer vaccine, which is safe and effective for youth. The safety concerns you may have heard about (I.e., heart inflammation) are extremely rare – and the benefits of the vaccine outweigh the risks. In addition to being safe for youth, the vaccine is also extremely effective! If you have specific questions about the safeness of the vaccine, contact your pediatrician. 

Some adolescents feel no symptoms and some experience the following:    

  • Pain, redness, and swelling where the injection was given 
  • Fever 
  • Chills 
  • Headache 
  • Fatigue 
  • Nausea 
  • Pain in the muscles  

These side effects are harmless and typically go away within a few days. Make an appointment to see your primary care physician if the soreness in your arm gets worse over 24 hours or if your side effects are not going away.  

Very rarely, some people have serious allergic reactions to the COVID-19 vaccine. That’s why you need to wait for 15 to 30 minutes after getting your vaccine. If you have a reaction, there are medications to quickly treat it! 

Viruses are constantly making copies of themselves to help themselves spread. Sometimes when they replicate, they become smarter and find a way to spread faster. That’s how delta (the most contagious variant of coronavirus in the world), formed. When someone gets infected with the delta variant, they have 1000 times more of the virus than those infected with the original. It is especially bad in pockets of the country with low vaccination rates, which means vaccination is the best protection against delta.

Getting a vaccine will not only stop the spread of this variant but stop the possibility of creating another one as well!  

Do not be alarmed that some people are getting COVID-19 even though they are vaccinated. This is normal with any vaccine because they are not 100% effective. There will be a small percentage of fully vaccinated people that get sick from COVID-19; but the good news is they are likely to have mild symptoms! You can think of the vaccine like a seatbelt. Seatbelts don’t prevent you from being in a car accident, but they significantly reduce the risk of getting seriously Injured in one!  

Many people who get COVID-19 experience no symptoms or very mild symptoms. However, many others get severely ill or end up in the hospital. The scary part is, there is no way to know who will be in which camp. That’s why it’s important to get vaccinated: even if you don’t get very sick, you could pass it on to others who may – like your family, friends, and people at school.  

Our job is to provide accurate information so you can feel empowered to make the decision that is right for you! We know not everyone will get vaccinated. If you choose not to, you can keep yourself and those around you safe by following COVID-19 safety protocols:  

  • Stand 6 feet apart from others  
  • Wear a mask indoors and outdoors 
  • Wash your hands frequently  
  • Stay away from others if you feel ill.  
  • Get tested for COVID-19 if you have been exposed or feel ill 

A lot of people are still thinking about whether the vaccine is the right choice for them and their family. Some are sure they do not want to get it. This could be for any number of reasons, including horrific events that happened in the past where Black, Brown, and Indigenous people of color were experimented on in medical settings. It could also be because they have experienced discrimination at the doctor’s office themselves. There are religious and spiritual reasons; concerns about side effects; not trusting how the shot was made, and so much more.

No matter what someone’s reason is, their experience is valid, and they should be treated with respect and understanding. When you consider racism as a factor in someone’s medical trauma, it is easy to understand why many are uncomfortable. If your parents fall into this category and you want to talk to them about it, we suggest:

  1. Listen to their concerns without judgement;
  2. State the facts and share vaccine education resources via credible sources you’ve learned from;
  3. Share your personal perspective/feelings about the vaccine;
  4. Remember to treat everyone with respect

The Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle is committed to ensuring there are spaces and opportunities available to students in which they can learn about the vaccine, get access to the vaccine for their families, take advantage of economic resources, and have fun doing it! If you are interested in collaborating on an event for your students or community youth in general, send us a message! 

for parents

Black Lives Matter, which means Black Health Matters too.

Vaccine education & outreach for us, by us.