‘Save Our Schools’ group is committed to pushing for Camas schools to reopen classrooms to students
A group of concerned parents and children held a protest rally outside the Camas School District offices Tuesday afternoon. This is the second protest event the “Save Our Schools” group has held, hoping to persuade the school board and administrators to allow their children to return to in-classroom instruction.
The rally was planned before Gov. Jay Inslee announced Sunday his latest restrictions, to be in place for at least the next four weeks. The event was held outdoors, with almost everyone wearing masks. People waived signs along Everett Street as well as in front of school district offices.
The Facebook group Open Camas Schools was created to fight for the children who are having social/emotional and educational struggles; for kids who are in abusive homes without first responders where school is their one escape. One parent said she personally knew of two children committing suicide, not in our area.
The parents are fighting for students who are home alone because their parents have to work, and for the children who simply need to be back in school to get the education they deserve.
“We have too many kids failing, falling behind, having self esteem issues, increased levels of anxiety and depression and needing more than they are getting,” said Andrea Seeley, one of the concerned parents. “This is our chance to come together, speak for our children and let our district know our kids and teachers are essential.
“Our current school plan should not be a one-size-fits-all solution; it is apparent that it is not working,” said Seeley.
The group’s goal is to work together to find a solution that takes care of the children and teachers that need to be back at school safely, while allowing for others to keep teaching and learning from a distance.
These parents believe the current metric of the number of COVID-19 cases per 100,000 population is the wrong metric. They cite numerous examples of children being in schools safely, both in local private schools, and in public school districts from around the nation.
The Camas School District continues to report a drop in attendance. Parents are pulling students out of the public schools, seeking either private schools that are operating at full capacity or home schooling. They mention school funding declines with the reduced enrollment. “We are in danger of losing the educators and programs that make Camas the great place to learn that our students need and deserve,” said Seeley.
The group decided to hold a Blackout Rally/Protest Tuesday. Their children were not logging into their classes, doing homework or engaging in any classwork. It is the first of three planned blackouts the group will be promoting to show the district that they are serious. The parents claim they will be taking their children out of Camas schools if they are not back to at least a hybrid learning platform across the board by January, according to Seeley.
Camas School District Superintendent Jeff Snell held an online town hall event the day prior, sharing what the district is hearing from parents and educators. In a recent survey, Snell reports there is great support for the school staff. There is strong support for the district’s decision to stay aligned with public health guidance. There is a lot of concern about rising case numbers, as well as how to make hybrid learning work. Finally, he mentioned concerns for the impact remote learning is having on the social emotional health of the students.
Snell mentioned the district held limited in-person instruction for approximately 600 students in October.
“We know there are many students out there that need in-person learning experiences in some form,” he said. “We have been serving in small groups since this summer. All of the groups are cohorted into 10 or fewer students and follow the recommendations from the Department of Health.”
Snell shared they began the in-person instruction to “students with significant needs, academic or social emotional. Last week we added kindergarten students,” he said.
In his briefing, Snell cited one study. A key finding was “in-person learning with countermeasures does not dramatically increase population wide transmission in this analysis.”
The group of parents created a petition to further their cause, based on much scientific evidence and current practices by other schools in other areas across the country. They cited “a very important document created by renowned physicians and scientists” which was the The Great Barrington Declaration.
“Current lockdown policies are producing devastating effects on short- and long-term public health. The results (to name a few) include lower childhood vaccination rates, worsening cardio- vascular disease outcomes, fewer cancer screenings and deteriorating mental health – leading to greater excess mortality in years to come, with the working class and younger members of society carrying the heaviest burden. Keeping students out of school is a grave injustice.”
The group is encouraging other parents to sign their online petition, found here on the group’s website.