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schools reopening 11/2020

Some local parents pressing for schools to reopen

Marches and petition started to pressure districts in Bellevue, Mercer Island

Some parents in Bellevue and on Mercer Island have been taking action to insist their districts reopen schools.

The flier for the Downtown Bellevue rally, held by the group School Is Essential, features cartoon drawings of parents holding signs: 

“Remote learning is not equitable.” 

“Kids are suffering.” 

“Schools can open safely.” 

“Every child deserves a choice.” 

There was a parent march, with masks and distancing, held in Bellevue last Saturday, Nov. 21. (Another was held on Wednesday, Nov. 11.) 

But it doesn’t seem likely that schools there are reopening soon. The Bellevue School District declares on its website, “In October, Bellevue School District announced that school buildings will not be fully open for learning until January 2021 at the earliest. Any decision at that time will be subject to review of the health data conditions for King County.”  

schools reopening 11/2020

The flier for the School Is Essential march in Bellevue on Nov. 21.

Meanwhile, a Change.org petition, “Open the schools on Mercer Island,” asking for 1,500 signatures, was up to 1,087 signers at the time of publication for this story. The petition organizers say they are seeking a hybrid model so that families can also opt not to attend during the pandemic.

“Thousands of schools across the nation are open and operating successfully using a hybrid program,” the petition states. “There is no substitute for in person learning and no valid excuse for why the children of Mercer Island can not be back in school safely.” 

The petition also says: “The negative social and educational impact of our children missing FAR more in person school day than that of the rest of the nation, will have an impact far beyond the reach of any virus.”

The recent Mercer Island plan to reopen schools to kindergartners and first-graders in the first week of December has been postponed. Superintendent of Schools Donna Colosky announced recently that in-person school for kindergarten and first grade has now been delayed until January. The rapid decline in community health and safety and anticipated increase in COVID-19 spread over the Thanksgiving break has led me to decide that we will not begin in-person kindergarten on the target date of December 2,” she said in a recent press release on the district’s website. 

Seattle Public Schools has declared classes will remain remote until at least January 28. 

Meanwhile, New York City’s public schools have returned to a remote model as of last Thursday because of a spike in citywide COVID-19 cases after reopening eight weeks ago. 

Note about the petition flier: Monroe schools are no longer open in person for first-graders. The schools stopped in-person hybrid classes for first grade on Nov. 18, after two days, due to parent and teacher concerns. According to KOMO News, 39 kindergarten students were under quarantine in the district at the time of the decision. First grade will be taught remotely. Kindergarten and special-needs students had already returned to school and will continue to learn in the classroom.

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About the Author

Jillian O'Connor

Jillian O’Connor is managing editor of the Seattle's Child print magazine. She lives in Seattle with her husband, two sons and a dog named after the Loch Ness Monster.