Camas, WA — Parents and students in the Camas School District are holding their second rally along with a ZOOM classroom blackout December 17 to once again ask the district to open Camas Schools to wider in-class instruction.
This Thursday, December 17 at 3:30 pm (setup at 3 pm), parents and students will meet in front of the Camas School District office located at 841 NE 22nd Avenue and at 4 pm march to 5th Avenue and proceed down 4th and 3rd Avenues.
Andrea Seeley, one of the event’s organizers, said “the group is gathering in a safe, socially distanced manner aimed at sending a message to the Camas School District that we want our students to have the choice to be back in school, in person. We are marching in solidarity with other Clark County school districts (Hockinson, Ridgefield, Evergreen and Vancouver) on the same day to their respective district offices.”
Seeley added: “We believe our teachers and our schools are essential and that kids need and deserve the option to return to in-person learning. On this day, December 17, our students will not be engaging in any classwork, attending any ZOOM classes or doing homework.”
Heather Deringer, who is also helping with the rally, said parents and students of all ages are welcome and encouraged to attend, wearing masks and with their own homemade signs.
The group has partnered with several local businesses to set up stations to sign petitions for a return to a broader in-person learning option. Currently, Camas School District has about 600 students in the classroom. Petitions will be set up at Hidden River Roasters (536 NE 5th Ave), A Beer at a Time (216 NE 3rd Ave), Camas Barber Shop (214 NE 4th Ave), Squeeze and Grind (537 Cedar St) and Salud (224 NE 3rd Ave).
“We encourage the community to sign the petition and order takeout at these businesses at the same time, supporting our local community during the recent extension of the shutdown in Washington State,” said Seeley.
The Open Camas Schools group cites a growing body of evidence at the national and state levels, including the Director of the CDC, UNICEF and Dr. Anthony Fauci, who have all stated that schools are the safest place for kids to be.
“Washington State School Superintendent, Chris Reykdal, recently acknowledged the failure of distance learning to appropriately engage students,” said Seely. “Numerous research studies around the world have documented the alarming rise of depression, anxiety, suicide, alcohol and substance abuse, domestic violence and child abuse as a strong driving factor that support the return of children to in-person learning. The skyrocketing number of failing kids is a trend that needs to be addressed differently and immediately. Other Washington state school districts and private schools within the state where COVID case numbers are similar are open to in-person learning and are providing good models for moving ahead safely and effectively.”
Today, Governor Inslee encouraged school districts statewide to start re-opening.
“Now that we have a better understanding of how the disease spreads and have developed health and safety protocols specific to schools, we are in a better position, we have more confidence when it comes to phased-in, in-person learning,” he said.
Inslee said that while he does have the ability to close schools for emergencies, he does “not have the statutory authority to make them reopen.”
He is, however, hoping that these new recommendations will give school districts the confidence to begin in-class instruction.
Inslee’s new reopening guidelines include the following:
- Districts where COVID cases are less than 50 residents per 100,000 people: In-person learning should be made available to all students.
- Districts where COVID cases are between 50 and 350 residents per 100,000 people: Districts are encouraged to phase in in-person learning, starting with elementary and middle school students.
- Districts where COVID cases are greater than 350 per 100,000 people: Districts are encouraged to bring elementary students “and those with the highest needs” back into classrooms in small groups of 15 or fewer.
Clark County has 450 cases per 100,000.
The Washington Education Association (WEA) issued a statement following Inslee’s announcement that said:
“The trust and confidence that we can safely return to school is something that must be earned. It would have been easier to build that trust with educators with more communications in advance from the Governor about these pending changes.
“We agree with the Governor that the spotlight should be on L&I safety requirements, which are key for building trust with educators, students and families. Districts must meet those requirements on day one. We need to know that there is adequate PPE, distancing, ventilation, an active and trained safety committee in each building, effective plans for contact tracing, testing and clear communications regarding protocols for what happens when a case is detected in school.
“Implementing these guidelines in areas where school is still remotely operating will take time. We are concerned that the way these changes were rolled out implies that school can resume before there is time to put these safety measures in place.
WEA’s focus will be to advocate that these requirements are fully in place before any expansion of in-person teaching and learning.”
The Open Camas Schools group feels they represent many students.
“Students are not being heard,” said Seeley. “Their pleas to return to school and resume extracurricular activities fall on deaf ears as administrators from school districts to teacher’s unions to health districts all seem to want to point fingers in other directions without taking responsibility. Nobody is asking students what they need or listening to their voices. Open Camas Schools believes that the district needs to put the students first. We are hopeful that Dr. Snell will renew his focus on the Camas School District and its students, teachers and staff. Our hope with the event is to keep the focus on putting ALL kids first.”