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reopen schools letter / opinion Amplified

Opinion | A mom’s letter to Inslee: Take action on reopening schools

'Parents, students feel like choice to go back is being punted.'

Here’s just one letter that was sent to Gov. Jay Inslee on Dec. 8, 2020.

Going out on a limb here. I wrote to the governor. I poured my heart into this letter. I only wish I could have read it to him in person. I am past bad feelings and blaming. We need to focus on the solution and coming together and being RESULTS-ORIENTED.

For better or worse, these are my words.

Dear Gov. Inslee:

I join the tsunami of frustrated and extremely concerned parents and students throughout our state in imploring you to take more leadership and action in the reopening of our schools. We understand on some level this is a district-by-district issue, but we strongly feel the districts have been left largely unguided as to what steps to take and even more so importantly: HOW TO TAKE THOSE STEPS CONFIDENTLY.

The relationship between the school board, district leadership, teachers unions and parents/teachers has deteriorated to the point of distrust and unhealthy antagonism — on ALL sides — and it’s only serving to make an already not ideal and stressful situation much, much worse. In short, parents and students feel like the choice to go back to school is being punted: between you, to the local health authorities, to the district boards, to the unions, and all back and forth with each other with no one being brave enough to bring all of the parties together. As parents and students, we feel completely left out of the decision-making process now all together. This is only creating even more damage and distrust. We need to go back to school.

We need to be creative and find a way.

We are struggling with the fact other states have figured out a way to send their children back at least in a hybrid model. That New York, which, as you know, has the most populous school district in the nation, is at least actively TRYING. That other countries have learned in the last eight months of this virus, and have prioritized schools staying open over bars and restaurants.

It is unfathomable to us as parents that in Washington state, we’ve managed to open bars, restaurants, etc. over these last months and have not made any progress nor had any sense of urgency towards the schools. This can only mean that in fact it is true — that the teachers union WEA (Washington Education Association) is indeed wielding more influence than they are legally allowed and should be allowed to do.

As governor, it is your responsibility to represent ALL of your citizens — that includes even the children. With the overwhelming scientific evidence suggesting that we can indeed reopen schools and operate them safely, with a majority of parents and students and even teachers who are able, willing and at this point DESPERATE to go back to school — we are absolutely stunned that more than eight months into this pandemic we are nowhere closer to at least a hybrid model than we were at the start of this thing. What are we left to conclude? That either the state has grossly mismanaged its resources or their priorities are quite heavily skewed against prioritizing the children. It’s THEIR turn.

We’ve figured out how to pivot and adapt a variety of businesses. The attention now must be given to the children. And that starts with your personal leadership in putting the WEA and unions back in their place: they are there to advocate for the people they purport to represent, NOT MAKE POLICY. Through their unchecked influence in reopening school discussions, this is precisely what you’ve allowed them to do, to the point where they flaunt their influence in meetings with you in letters and circulate them on social media like a victory banner.

You must understand, parents and children in this state feel we do not have that kind of powerful union. We don’t have that one person or group that has your ear and can give you our accurate version of what’s happening. YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO BE OUR CHAMPION.

Please, I plead with you to read this and take to heart the sense of desperation and exasperation many of us parents and children have. We need to make this work. We need you to be the leader we elected you to be and give this the attention it has deserved since the beginning.

I sincerely appreciate your time in reading this. And I remain hopeful you will take a more active role going forward in balancing the power in this state regarding education and give it back where it belongs: to the children.

Thank you.

Michelle Escobar (proud and concerned mom of three in the Bellevue School District)

More in Amplified

Opinion | Taking school outside could be the answer

Parent opinion | Our teachers are pulling off the impossible with remote learning

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About the Author

Michelle Escobar

Michelle is a reformed lawyer-turned-destination wedding designer and writer, historian and accomplished musician. A native of Southern California, she's enjoyed exploring the Pac NW life for ten years, living on the Eastside with her husband and three kids, three Jack Russell Terriers and (apparently) two raccoons. You can find her slinging spanakopita and spaghetti on busy weeknights as she juggles soccer practice and music lessons. Her mantra: use your brain, have a good work ethic, don't be an a-hole.