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Puget Sound parents on how they feel about their school districts’ reopening plans

A first grade student at the Green Mountain School listens to her teacher on Feb. 18, 2021, in Woodland, Washington. (Photo by Nathan Howard/Getty Images)

As many school districts across the state are starting to return to in-person learning or making plans for a return, KIRO Radio’s Gee & Ursula Show opened the phone lines for parents to share how they feel about what’s happening in their kids’ district.

The first caller from Marysville said they’re happy that their kid is enjoying remote learning and is doing pretty well with it. The district has plans to return in March.

“I’m happy that the Marysville school district all got vaccinated now,” they added. “So all the teachers are fully vaccinated.”

Teachers there are vaccinated thanks to the neighboring Tulalip tribe, which made its excess vaccines available to the school employees.

“What I don’t like is I know the CDC was saying how you need to have better ventilation for the kids and all that kind of stuff,” the caller said. “And Marysville School District is pretty outdated. They’ve got a lot of older schools. My grandfather and my mother went to the same elementary school my son’s going to.”

“I actually do heating and air conditioning myself. So … I know about ventilation, and I have not seen anything that they’ve done to even update the ventilation,” the caller added.

A teacher texted in to say that teachers are still working hard, if not harder, in remote learning.

“Ursula and Gee: I ask for a favor, please,” the teacher said. “Please do not let this turn into a ‘Why don’t the teachers get back to work?’ I’m a special education teacher in Kent. I am working very hard. I do two Zoom classes daily and then weekly one-on-one, 30 minute meetings to work on IEP goals. I started a fundraiser to get books into the hands of my kids. A lot of my colleagues are doing similar things, and it causes me great anxiety to watch the news and hear that COVID variants are potentially more contagious on one segment, and then ‘go back to school’ the next.”

The teacher pointed out that a friend who works at the capitol in Olympia is remote until July, and that even school board meetings in Kent aren’t in person right now “because it’s not safe.”

“Teachers did not create this pandemic and should not keep getting blamed for the fallout,” they said.

A caller who is visiting Seattle for work but is from Tennessee shared that schools there have given the option to go back in person or remain virtual. There have been exceptions, the caller said, like when case numbers spiked and the governor made mandates for certain weeks to go back to 100% virtual.

“I’m not saying one is better than the other,” they said. “I think every family makes their own decisions for their children. But Tennessee has, in my opinion, done a pretty decent job of giving the families the option to control what’s best for them, as opposed to the state or county recommending or dictating what they should be doing.”

A caller from the Bonney Lake School District says while the classrooms have opened back up, the district has accommodated those who choose to stay remote.

In Everett, a caller expressed that they’re not happy with how the district has been handling things.

“I have a son who is a senior, and he’s struggling with the online learning. Him and some of his classmates, they seem to have more homework, and they just spend an awful lot of time just staring at the computer,” the caller shared. “My son has an IEP. It’s just been overall challenging. He’s also hoping to get a football scholarship. And this … it’s just really done a number on everything.”

That caller’s suggestion to the district is to leave the choice up to families as far as returning to school.

“If there’s teachers that are high risk, students that are high risk, then they don’t go,” they said. “But I don’t feel like they should be making the choice for everybody. I’ve actually been calling my district and whatnot, and they are saying that after being through this for a year, they still don’t have precautions in place. And then I was actually told that it was just the logistics of scheduling classes to get kids back.”

A caller from Island County says teachers there have been intense in their learning program, and it’s thankfully working for their son.

“I’m actually really, really happy with how it’s all been going,” they said. “It’s been truly wonderful. The teachers have been very, very intense in their learning program, and have been very receptive to the information that parents do give. I do agree that parents should have somewhat of a choice, but … that hard line is there’s a lot of students that are born with certain conditions, and it’s almost as if they’re going to be punished because they have these high-risk conditions and people want to be able to put their kids back full time.”

“But I know these kids also need that full time and structure, so it’s do you bend one way and punish the other? One side or the other would be punished, so I see where it’s really hard to make that decision.”

Luckily, this caller’s son has been doing well remotely and is typically a good student in-person as well.

“But it’s also what we do as parents at home that helps feed that,” the caller said. “And we spend that time teaching them and being there, letting them know we’re right there to help them with anything that they need. I know a lot of parents can’t do that right now, because they do have to go to work and they can’t be there for everything.”

Another caller said their 5-year-old daughter was depressed with all online school, missing her friends, but they’re happy with how their school is operating now that students have returned.

“It became very overwhelming with all the work they would do with online school,” the caller said. “They have now fully returned back to school at Emerald Heights. And with the way they handle it, I have full confidence — they line them up on dots, space them apart from each other from the time they get out of the car. They take her temperature, put the temperature on the card on their backpack, they handle it so amazing. It really makes me happy with the situation and how they’re doing it.”

To hear from all the callers, listen to the full audio here. Find more comments and join the conversation on the Gee & Ursula Facebook Page here.

Listen to the Gee and Ursula Show weekday mornings from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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