Two fall school options for students: online only or hybrid (part-time in school, part-time distance learning)

For the 2020-2021 school year, families will have two options to choose from for their students:

  • An online-only school taught by certificated teachers.
  • A hybrid model with some days of the week in school and some days doing schoolwork from home. The number of days in a school building will vary by grade level.

Superintendent Carla Santorno and Deputy Superintendent Josh Garcia presented these updated options to the School Board Thursday night. 
Watch the board meeting.

"We must do everything possible to both educate all children to the highest degree possible and keep students and staff healthy and safe," Superintendent Santorno said. "We also know that our earliest learners need the most in-school time, so we're working on ways to maximize their time in school."

From the beginning of the pandemic's effects on education in March, Tacoma Public Schools has committed to following the guidance of health authorities. 

Strict guidance for health and safety from the state Department of Health and Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, for all schools across the state, limit the realistic options for what school can look like for 2020-2021. 

Specifically, the requirement to limit person-to-person contact in classrooms, work spaces and other school spaces with six-foot social distancing means roughly half of each school's students can attend at any one time. Actual numbers may vary by school based on the size of classrooms.

What will a hybrid school model look like?

  • For elementary school grades K-1 (and possibly grade 2): 4 days in-person school days per week if space is available, with 1 day of distance learning. Space availability will depend in part on how many families choose to enroll in the full online-only school. 
  • For elementary school grades 3-5: 2 days in-person school days with 3 days of distance learning. 
  • For middle school: 2 days in-person school days with 3 days of distance learning. 
  • For high school: 2 days in-person school days with 3 days of distance learning. High school students also will have the option of choosing the Running Start early college entry program, studying career and technical education programs through the Pierce County Skills Center or choosing self-paced instruction through Willie Stewart Academy. 

In all the hybrid school models, the district would provide additional support for special education, McKinney-Vento (homeless), English Language Learners and foster care students. 

To improve both the classroom and distance learning experiences, this summer Tacoma Public Schools invested in what's called a new "Learning Management System." The system improves interactions online between teachers and students; allows whole class and small group videoconferencing; and allows teachers to assign and receive assignments, assign and view grades, send messages to student and parents, and show data on student growth and engagement.

To provide additional support for learning, the district will have laptops ready to assign and distribute to all high school students though their schools beginning in late August. Then will work on plans for middle school students followed by elementary school students afterward.

The presentation to the School Board noted that while the district already ordered all the laptops necessary to provide one to every student in grades 1-12, laptop computers worldwide are on back order and take nearly 150 days working days to receive.

"We still have many, many more processes and details to work out," Deputy Superintendent Garcia said. "We've got teams working on health and safety equipment and protocols, adjusting curriculum for online school and hybrid models, preparing training on our Learning Management System, determining what kinds of extracurricular activities we can safely offer, launching enrollment for our new online school, figuring out how to safely serve meals in school and give students meals to take home for their non-school days plus many, many more issues.

"We are committed to keeping the board, our staff, our students and our families informed along the way as we solidify more of these decisions," he said.

Media Contact

Dan Voelpel, Executive Director of Communications | 253-571-1015 |

About Tacoma Schools

Tacoma Public Schools is the only district designated an Innovation Zone by Washington State. A leader in implementing innovative schools and programs to meet the diverse needs of every student, every day, TPS serves approximately 30,000 students from preschool to grade 12 and at nearly 5000 employees is one of the largest employers in Tacoma. Learn more...


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