Camas, WA — About 50 members of a local group called Open Camas Schools rallied for several hours today at the Camas School District (CSD) administration building and alongside Everett Street.
Their intention is to encourage CSD to start opening up more classes to in-person learning. Camas schools have been mostly closed to in-person learning since March, with the exception of special education and a handful of other students totaling about 600 district wide.
Open Camas Schools is a grassroots group of parents and some teachers who are greatly concerned about students falling behind academically, as well as the mental and emotional challenges emerging from continued isolation from peers, academics, and sports.
”I’m here to support Camas schools,” said Mike Hubbell, a concerned parent who helped organize today’s rally. “I want to see our kids back in school. I believe there’s a better method than how we’re currently teaching our kids — to sit and just watch a screen.”
Is the timing right now challenging given the lockdown?
“I think there’s always going to be challenging times,” he said. “When you look at the opportunity we are missing with our kids there’s nothing more important than our kids being educated. The biggest challenge is seeing my kids in sports, and how that’s affecting their ability to play sports, their ability to practice sports, and the whole camaraderie that people see when they play sports. Kids love to play with other kids. They’re missing out on those opportunities right now, and that’s a big part of what our lives are about. The hard work, the dedication that comes with that. Parents don’t get together anymore.”
He also said the schools are the hubs of community.
“The moment you destroy schools, you destroy sense of community.”Mike Hubbell, Open Camas Schools
He’s also very concerned about the mental well being of students.
“Too much screen time is dangerous,” Hubble said. “What kind of message are we sending to our kids?”
Heather Wynn was also in attendance.
“We’re here as parents asking the district to hear us,” said Wynn. “Online learning is not working for many, many students for many reasons, not just academically. It’s harming them mentally and socially. So, we are here to say it can be done safely. Once the lockdown is over let’s get on this. Let’s get them back in school happy and healthy.
“We know this lockdown has put a damper on things, we’re not tone deaf, but we did plan this weeks ago. We’ve done car rallies, and we’re just getting nowhere with them (CSD Administration). They’re not listening to us. They are using one metric, and this metric is not meeting the needs of the children.”
What’s the metric?
”Case numbers per 100,000,” she said. “It has to be 75 or under and it’s the only metric they are using. They’re not paying attention to other statistics from other school districts that have been open. So, we believe all those things have to be put on the table. We are here to ask them to look at other schools who are doing it safely, even here in our local area. And, then make the decision based on that. Look at what the children are asking for. How many are failing? I personally know of two children — not in this area — who have committed suicide.”
Wynn wants CSD to open up schools once this current lockdown is over. She’s not asking all families or teachers to come back to school.
“I don’t want them to go against what they believe,” she said. “You can see people are saying we need these in-person options for our kids. We want our children to be better served. It can be done safely. They have the space in the buildings. Follow all the protocols. Do a hybrid model. To teachers we say we need you in the classroom.”
The Open Camas Schools Facebook page has 922 members as of this writing.
Dr. Jeff Snell, Superintendent of Camas Schools, issued this statement today:
“We recognize that this is a challenging time for everyone and appreciate that the pandemic has affected all of our families uniquely. We understand the value of in-person learning experiences and have been incrementally increasing the number of students served that way within the recommendations from the Washington State Department of Health. We also value input from our community – students, staff, and families. Last night, we held another town hall to engage the community in a conversation about remote learning, increasing in-person learning opportunities, and the current transmission rates in our community. My hope is that we can rally together in our community and every other community on behalf of our students, drive down transmission rates and get all of our kids back in school.”
The Town Hall was virtually attended by about 200 people. Here are some resources CSD posted today from the event.
* Town Hall Recording<https://camas-wednet-edu.zoom.us/rec/share/AqkBv7RuEDngRF1nvRYEGVYeIuHBoenB9XZfh71nSsDPl86WtDLs95usXn3io9MZ.1oufgBhpi2iQ-bYU>
* Presentation Slides<https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1BGyVnno1sR-b_534495KBEkD9vU0IecvgLKX1t7fhzg/edit?usp=sharing>
* Thoughtexchange prior to Town Hall<https://my.thoughtexchange.com/report/9f1740ee28e0a23b0b9b1ad48369f555> – read community members’ concerns and questions that we used to help plan the Town Hall
* Thoughtexchange during the Town Hall<https://my.thoughtexchange.com/report/f8f583c4132ba1bf6002d3f6dc3e4ebf> – read participants’ questions and concerns captured at the end of the Town Hall Meeting.