Washougal, WA — About 60 local parents held a rally Tuesday night calling for open meetings with Washougal School District administration and the school board to more readily discuss curriculum issues, equity programs, sexual education, and Critical Race Theory, as well as mask mandates.
Here’s the full video report featuring an interview with Patricia Bellamy, a parent who was not permitted to return to Washougal School Board meetings: https://youtu.be/72q6Ru6Y45g
She explains what happened a few weeks ago and said more than 70 grievances have been filed against Washougal Schools, and is calling for face-to-face meeting with school leaders. She said if they don’t accommodate these meetings and hear parents they will call for the resignation or start a legal process to remove administration leaders from office.
Washougal School District responded with this statement:
“When the state of emergency was declared in the state of Washington last year, the normal Open Public Meetings Act (OPMA) rules for in-person meetings were suspended, and school boards, along with other organizations, were required to meet via Zoom. The governor modified this rule in early 2021, to allow boards to choose to hold in-person meetings, but only if they’re able to meet certain safety requirements.
“Our board started meeting in person in February, and was pleased that patrons wishing to address the board and listen to the board’s meetings were following the required safety measures. After the May 11 meeting, when a very small group of patrons refused to comply with posted and required safety measures, the board indicated that they will meet via Zoom, with no one attending in-person, for the until further notice. This is specifically allowable under the Open Public Meetings Act as amended by the Governor’s Emergency Proclamation 20-05 and the OPMA changes in 20-25 and as amended in 20-28.14 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. You can find some information from the Washington State School Directors Association on this topic, which outlines the legal parameters for board meetings at this time.
“Moving back to the virtual meetings will support meeting the safety restrictions currently in place in Phase 3 for public gatherings. Once the COVID health restrictions/requirements are lifted per OPMA, and it is safe to do so, we look forward to returning to our in-person meetings. Because we don’t know the timing of the changes in the restrictions and requirements, this could happen at any time.
“The meeting location and ways the public can participate in the board’s meeting are posted ahead of each meeting, and we would encourage patrons and community members to watch for updates on the board meeting page.
“As it relates to masks, we are following the guidelines from the Department of Health for K-12 schools, and from Labor and Industries which apply to our employees. You can find the relevant information for schools here:
https://www.doh.wa.gov/Portals/1/Documents/1600/coronavirus/FallGuidanceK-12.pdf (see page 11 for the Mask information)
“For employees, the Labor and Industries requirements on page 5 states: ‘Cloth face coverings must be worn by every employee not working alone on the job site unless their exposure dictates a higher level of protection under L&I safety and health rules and guidance.’”