Parents rally to ‘Save Our Schools’ in Camas


The parents said they are open to discussion of alternatives

CAMAS — A group of concerned Camas parents and their children gathered at Doc Harris Stadium Monday evening.for a “Save Our Schools’’ rally. Those who attended the event want to find a way to open Camas schools and allow for in-school instruction. 

The parents said they are open to discussion of alternatives, according to Bill Criddle. They say they’re not pushing any specific solution.

“Intel’s able to get 15,000 people back to work,” said Criddle. “We’re asking that half the students to go back to school at any given time, which at the high school is like 1,100 kids.”

“I fear for the long-term effects on the kids,” said Criddle, who indicated that he heard a report about a 13-year-old Clark County teen, from a different school district, who had committed suicide. The physical and emotional health of the children are part of the concerns of these parents.

Concerned parent Bill Criddle felt Camas school officials were ignoring parents’ concerns about the need to reopen schools for in-classroom instruction. He helped organize an Open Camas Schools page on Facebook, which allowed concerned parents to unite. Photo Mike Schultz
Concerned parent Bill Criddle felt Camas school officials were ignoring parents’ concerns about the need to reopen schools for in-classroom instruction. He helped organize an Open Camas Schools page on Facebook, which allowed concerned parents to unite. Photo Mike Schultz

Another parent at the rally is a teacher in the Evergreen School District. “I’m a teacher, trying to tell it from a teacher’s perspective. It’s your kids who are falling through the cracks; they’re not being served,” said this concerned teacher and parent.. “We’re doing the best we can.”

“I am also a young life leader, and these kids are struggling, they’re hurting,” said the same parent. “I talked to a girl today who said ‘my dad and I are not getting along.’ Teachers are seeing family problems and the social anxiety of not being able to see their friends. It’s a hard time.”

In the Evergreen School District on Monday, all the online classes disappeared. “Students were in a panic,” according to the teacher. “Teachers got up and couldn’t find their online classes. Teachers were asking: ‘Where’s my classes?’ Students got up, logged in and said ‘I don’t have a class. I can’t get to my meeting and they’re panicked.’”

Those Evergreen students had missed their first two periods already. The teacher wondered how many students hung around as opposed to thinking school was canceled for the day.

Sal Colletto joined the group of parents at Monday’s event pushing to open Camas schools. He had posted the following on social media a few days earlier. “Here is some data for you. Just got off Zoom, 729 students at Union HS with 1 or more F’s (most of those multiple F’s).  If you add No Credits (which is a nicer way to say F), over 1,000 students sitting at home failing.”

Doug Milner was one of the parents in the line of roughly 30 vehicles for the rally. “What I don’t understand is why a clerk at Fred Meyer can have 3,500 exposures to strangers every week. yet teachers can’t be in front of the same 20 kids every week,” he said. “I don’t understand that. I need that to change.’’

His wife was in a second vehicle. They have two kids enrolled in Camas schools, a third grader and a seventh grader. They said online school is not working. “We are not getting value for taxpayer money,” said Milner. “We are getting (cheated). We are angry. We want the teachers back in the classroom.”

Milner wants the health department to adjust the metrics.  “Our kids are never going to get back in school with these metrics. We need the metrics to change, we need the school district to change and we need the political pressure from all angles to make a change,” he said.

Concerned parent Heather Wynn adds a colorful “Save Our Schools” message to the rear window on her vehicle. Wynn and roughly 30 other vehicles filled with Camas residents joined the rally hoping to bring attention to parents' desire to reopen Camas schools safely for in-classroom instruction. Photo by Mike Schultz
Concerned parent Heather Wynn adds a colorful “Save Our Schools” message to the rear window on her vehicle. Wynn and roughly 30 other vehicles filled with Camas residents joined the rally hoping to bring attention to parents’ desire to reopen Camas schools safely for in-classroom instruction. Photo by Mike Schultz

The parents have had direct communications with Dr. Jeff Snell. the superintendent of schools in Camas. 

“He says his hands are tied,” said Milner. “No one’s willing to make a move. We need bold leadership. We need people to step up and say these metrics aren’t working. We need our kids back in school. And we need that to happen now.”

Milner had echoed comments by Criddle, who said the group has written multiple letters, multiple emails, to the school board and the school administrators. They realized that they weren’t getting legitimate answers. 

“It was just the canned answer of we’re listening to the Clark County officials,” said Criddle. “The school board hasn’t answered the very specific list of questions we sent.”

Andrea is a mom with two kids in school. She said her fourth grader is doing okay, but her freshman is struggling. She indicated there is a lack of instruction; just a lot of assignments being given online. There is a “lack of actual teaching on zoom,” she said. “It’s very difficult for them to get an actual education when they’re just being handed instructions, and lots of assignments.”

“It’s time, it’s time for us to go back,” concluded Andrea.

Another mom shared her concerns.  “We’re concerned about the kids not being in school and learning as much as they should be learning to progress as contributors to society..You know, quite frankly, it makes it hard as working parents, and the social aspect.” Her 3rd grader is  “desperately missing his friends.”

A different parent remarked. “You know, it’s just not a good situation for any of us. We want to have the kids back in school. We feel like it’s safe and ready for them to be learning as much as they would if they were in the classroom.”

An entire family was in their car hoping for a return to in-school teaching. “We want to get our kids back into school,” said the mom. “Our concerns are social, emotional, and the lack of learning, the lack of hours of education they’re getting. We need to be able to get the schools open up and get back at least into a hybrid ASAP. Our kids are all struggling.”

Stephanie Colleto shared that they had moved their children to the Camas Connect Academy. They believe there is a better online learning situation there, but the children are still not getting the quality education they should, compared to in-classroom instruction. “We’re looking for teachers to be teaching our kids, not us.”

“We want our kids back in school,” said another mom, as the caravan was about to leave Doc Harris stadium. “It’s amazing how the rest of our county can have people out working, and how all the big box stores can be open, Costco can be open and Walmart and Fred Meyer, but somehow, we can’t do the classroom instruction safely?”

In an earlier news report, one parent said opening Camas schools for in classroom instruction was up to Superintendent Snell.  The following was shared on social media. 

“The superintendent of Washington state does not dictate when we are allowed to begin. It is up to each school district,’’ one parent said. “Governor Inslee clearly states in his back to school plan that each school district has the power to make their own decision regarding opening. So Jeff Snell can make that decision, just like the Mead School District superintendent did for his schools in Spokane. They are open. There are no ‘governor’s orders’ that have to be followed in this situation.”

Clark County Today had asked the Clark County Health Department if they were in charge of deciding if students could return to school. The response was that they only make recommendations based on guidance from the state but the choice to open schools remains in the hands of school officials.

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About The Author

John is a retired airline pilot, serving Delta for over 31 years. Prior to Delta, he served in the US Air Force for 11 and a half years; three and a half years as a Public Affairs Officer and eight years as a pilot. John flew multiple airplanes around the world for Delta, retiring as a B-767 Captain. During his 31 years at Delta, John served as a member of the pilot’s union leadership, representing the Portland-based pilots for five years. John got involved in area politics during the Columbia River Crossing debate. He became a citizen activist, speaking out against wasteful spending and fighting for common sense transportation solutions. He ran for the Washington state legislature twice, a Representative position in 2014 and Senate in 2020. John is the eldest of six children. He remains extremely close with members of his family and lives in Oregon and Washington. He has 14 nieces and nephews and a growing number of “grands” in the next generation. John has enjoyed skiing, scuba diving, travel, and time on his Harley when he’s not busy with local issues or flying.

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