Four weeks into a mandated at-home public school learning environment, a growing number of Camas parents are working together and reaching out to Camas School District (CSD) administrators — and School Board members — to find solutions that will bring students back into the classroom as soon as possible.
These parents, led by Bill Criddle and Casey Taylor, have formed a Facebook group called Open Camas Schools, which now has more than 670 members.
“We formed this group as concerned Camas parents because of our desire to get our children back into the classroom as soon as possible,” said Criddle. “We feel our children are suffering academically and emotionally in this remote learning environment, and it’s also causing teachers to be overworked. It’s not a good situation. We feel like the school district administrators and School Board members are not listening to us or hearing our concerns so we’ve created a Facebook group to share our experiences to help create solutions that will get our children in the classroom sooner rather than later. Many other school districts in other states and counties with far worse COVID-19 case numbers have found practical and safe ways to return to school. We want CSD to listen and act.”
The group encourages open and civil discussion because they feel their children deserve to be in a better situation. The group has done extensive research with COVID-19 cases in similar districts in Washington and around the nation.
Members cite Mead School District near Spokane that found a way to open up safely. They also see districts in Utah (Utah County) and Arizona of similar size, and with more than quadruple the COVID-19 cases operating using a hybrid model — half the time in school, half the time remote learning.
They said many school districts gave parents these options: 1) Attend school full-time; 2) Follow a hybrid model; and 3) At-home remote learning.
The group feels that CSD families were never given an option; they were simply mandated to have distance learning without having a voice.
As of Friday, Clark County Public Health reports that overnight 32 people have tested positive for COVID-19. To date, 3,298 Clark County residents have tested positive since March. Clark County currently has 163 active cases. The number of active cases reflects the number of confirmed cases who are currently in their isolation period.
Presently, 25 COVID-19 patients are hospitalized in Clark County and 10 persons are under investigation for COVID-19 are hospitalized. Clark County has had 58 COVID-19 deaths.
By contrast, Spokane County has had 6,808 COVID-19 cases since March, and 168 COVID-19 related deaths. Spokane County has also reported more than 100 overnight COVID-19 cases over the last three days.
Mead School District reports one confirmed positive COVID-19 case at Midway Elementary School, with seven close contacts in quarantine, as of September 24. There are no reported cases in the district’s 14 other schools.
The group says the nationwide COVID-19 numbers show it’s possible to operate schools using a hybrid model, and they want a real explanation from CSD about why they’re not doing that now.
“We have created a set of questions that we are presenting to the CSD administration,” said Criddle. “To date all we’ve received are canned responses from Superintendent Jeff Snell, and absolutely no responses from School Board members.”
Snell said they are following Clark County Public Health guidelines for reopening schools.
“Twenty-five to 75 cases per 100,000 in the county is moderate,” said Snell. “And this is the window in which we can have a hybrid model. Anything below 25 is full onsite. But we have to meet that indicator over two to three weeks staying in the moderate range. After three weeks of staying in that range, we plan to sit down with public health, and the following week we would start K-5 in a hybrid model.”
The week of September 21, according to Clark County Public Health, the numbers spiked to 76.15 cases per 100,000, which puts the county back in the HIGH range, which comes with the following recommendation: “Distance learning with the option for limited in-person learning for students who need it most, such as children with disabilities and students living homeless. Sports and extracurricular activities postponed or canceled.”
The moderate range — 25 to 75 cases per 100,000 — has this health recommendation: “Distance learning with the option for limited in-person learning for students who need it most, such as children with disabilities and students living homeless. Gradual expansion of in-person education, beginning with elementary students. Over time, consider adding hybrid in-person learning for middle or high school students. Sports and extracurricular activities postponed or canceled. Consider low-risk activities when all students have some level of in-person learning.”
These CSD parents feel like their students may miss half or more of the school year, which includes sports, dances, academic contests, etc.
“So far, the dialogue has been constructive among Camas parents, and we have appreciated the responses,” said Criddle. “Now, we simply want them to hear us, work with us, and come up with a smart solution.”
To that end, the group has drafted these questions for CSD administration:
- What considerations have you made, what studies have been done or considered to estimate the specific educational / intellectual deterioration taking place in the minds of the kids by not attending in-person school? How have you determined this risk is less than the risk to our children attending in-person school now? (The longer this goes on the worse academic outcomes become for everyone. One of many studies and estimates: https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/public-and-social-sector/our-insights/covid-19-and-student-learning-in-the-united-states-the-hurt-could-last-a-lifetime#)
- How many kids will drop out of school before we return or after as a result of how far they are getting behind? What is your estimate? How have you determined this risk is less than the risk to our children attending in-person school now?
- What considerations have you made, what studies have been done or considered to estimate specific mental, social and emotional damage being done to kids by not attending in-person school, participating in extracurricular activities, etc.? How have you determined this risk is less than the risk to our children attending in-person school now? (Current studies are showing the isolation of no school and perpetual lockdown is causing childhood depression and anxiety to skyrocket. Here is one of many articles – https://time.com/5870478/children-mental-health-coronavirus/)
- What considerations have you made, what studies have been done or considered to estimate the increase in violence against children being waged in the homes of Camas? How have you determined this risk is less than the risk to our children attending in-person school now? (We believe data shows that child abuse reports, which is often reported by teachers, nurses etc. is down 30% – 50% – One of many sources: https://www.webmd.com/lung/news/20200512/covid19-lockdown-increases-child-abuse-risk
- How many suicides have you considered may take place sometime this year as a result of the extended isolation many kids are feeling? What have you done to test or seek information on this? How have you determined this risk is less than the risk to our children attending in-person school now? (Childhood suicides could be going up with the isolation from school. One analysis from London: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/health/coronavirus-uk-child-suicide-mental-health-nhs-a9617671.html)
- Given that children contract COVID-19 at rates much lower than they contract the flu, that they pass it less easily or frequently to adults (teachers) and once having caught COVID-19 survive at much greater rates than they do versus contracting the seasonal flu, what studies, data, medical opinions are you basing your decision to not be convening in-person school today?
“We’ve been patient, but if these questions aren’t answered soon, and if we continued to be ignored by CSD administration and the School Board, we will pursue other means of getting our voices heard and that could include picketing and having peaceful demonstrations in town,” said Taylor.
Snell added what he said publicly a couple days ago: “As we previously shared, our goal is to get students back to in-person learning as soon as we can. We are entering the transition part of our planning timeline as we begin to add in-person learning experiences for more students. Hybrid learning blends in-person experiences (2 days per week) with remote learning.“
“Over the next three weeks, we will monitor COVID-19 activity levels in Clark County to determine if we can start our transition to hybrid learning. Parents will continue to have the option to keep their students learning remotely if they prefer. If we are below the high COVID-19 activity level for the weeks of 9/28 and 10/5 we will start transitioning our kindergarten students the week of October 12. If we continue to stay below the high level we will transition grades 1 – 5 the week of October 19. We will follow a similar three-week model for transitioning secondary students that goes through the weeks of October 19 to November 2 with a full transition scheduled for the week of November 9. For more details about the timeline and rationale please refer to the CSD Phased Return to In-Person Learning Plan.”
“The transition plan brings up a lot of questions, concerns, and emotions for many people. I want to address some of them in this communication, and also share more information in the Town Hall scheduled for Tuesday, September 29 from 5 – 6 pm. The Town Hall will be recorded for anyone who cannot attend at that time.”
Lacamas Magazine is also in the process of conducting a poll asking these questions:
- As of today, what would you choose for your child/children’s learning if given the choice?
2. Should the CSD School Board take community input into consideration when deciding on when to send students back to school?