About 40 parents and students gathered Wednesday to voice their desires for Ridgefield schools to reopen
Roughly 40 parents and students rallied outside the Ridgefield School District offices Tuesday afternoon, hoping to get the attention of the school board and Nathan McCann, superintendent of the Ridgefield School District.
Those who gathered expressed their belief that online learning is not working for far too many young people. Katie, a 5th grader, said: “I want to go back to school very badly.”
“I’m doing homeschool from my mom,” said Adalie, who said her friends tell her that virtual learning is not working for them. “But I hear a lot that it’s not fun at all, and it’s not working. It takes up a lot of time and all they do is look at a screen.”
Adalie’s mom, Melinda Adams, also weighed in.“It is time to open up the schools. It’s time to advocate for our kids. I’m a nurse, I advocate for patients and part of nursing care is you keep the patient as the center of your care.
“Our teachers, our administrators, our teachers unions need to start putting the children back into the center of these schools,” Adams said. “We need to advocate for our kids. They are not learning very well. We’ve got kids that are abused. We’ve got kids that are in poverty. We’ve got kids that are hungry. The school is the safe system for them. These teachers need to advocate for our children, they need to get back into the classroom. That is why I’m here. It is time to start advocating for our kids.”
Mason Roberts is an 11-year-old who attends Sunset Ridge Intermediate School. “We’re holding a rally to open up schools,’’ he said. “This online school thing is crazy. I went from an A student to a B to C student, because I haven’t really had this social interaction with friends.”
Megan Roberts has two other boys besides Mason. “My kids benefit way more with a teacher who is right in their face, who motivates them.” Roberts shared that Mason was simply hitting “submit” on his assignments, without doing any work.
That problem was corrected once mom and dad found out, but it went on far too long. Mason explained: “You wouldn’t hand in a blank sheet of homework to a teacher in class. But it’s easy to do that online because you’re not really talking to somebody and you’re not really having that social interaction that you have in real life.”
But Megan shared a huge problem. “They’ve been able to access pornography on their zoom meeting.” Mason confirmed it. “I’ve seen porn on zoom meetings and like, Oh my god.”
Megan said Mason quickly closed his computer and came directly to her reporting the incident. He said, ‘Mom, I just saw pornography. And my computer is shut.’” Megan reported it to school officials, but she remains worried about online learning. She can’t monitor all three of her children’s classes at the same time.
Aja is a former educator. “I’m here for the kids. They need social interaction, they need to have physical touch, if possible. They need an education in person. Their teachers need it too. But right now it’s for the children. They even said they want to be back.”
Mary said: “the kids have lost their motivation to do all of that work. I am done arguing with my kids.”
One student reported she is working an average of three hours a day, and on occasion four or five hours. “About three hours. I’m screaming on the top of my lungs — mom, I’m bored!”
Another mom shared her experience. “It’s really hard watching them do online school because they’re frustrated,” she said. “They can’t get exactly what they’re getting in the classroom. They need to.talk to their friends and teachers. This is taking a toll on their mental health.”
Jason has a 9th grader and 5th grader. “Our kids are doing well, but they’d be doing much better in class,” he said. “We just want them back in school. They’re struggling with not having as much socialization. And we’re really concerned. Our church does a lot of work with at-risk families, and we’re seeing a lot of emphasis on students who are suffering and not having their needs met.”
Jason’s wife Erika spoke about one son. “He just does not like the school,” she said. “I’m sure the teacher is doing her best, but it’s not creative. It’s not inspiring to him at all. It’s been frustrating.”
“Nobody’s listening,” said Jessica Pace. “Our kids need to get out from the computer screen and the teachers too. One of my kids’ teachers said she’s working double time. And she’s crying every night because she cannot meet the demands that her classroom needs.”
Mary shared her kids have lost their motivation to do all of that work. “I am done arguing with my kids,” she said. Her daughter is in 8th grade. “If she’s struggling right now, freshman year is gonna be really hard.”
Another mom said: “It’s going on a year. That’s not okay.”
A dad spoke about one of his sons. “He gets overwhelmed by the fact that he’s gonna sit down at the computer for the next three hours,” he said. “We’ve had more breakdowns than he’s ever had in his life.”
Erica suggests parents need to communicate more with the school board and Superintendent McCann. “I would like to recommend that if people are having issues, that they let the board know, the superintendent know. Because he’s saying that he is only hearing from the parents who don’t want the schools to open up.
“We need to make sure if you do want to open up that we’re communicating that,” she said. “Other parts of the country are open, and Washington students fall behind.”
“My kids can wear a mask,” said Megan Roberts. “They support social distancing, they support mask wearing. But we need our kids to be in school. We need them to feel that passion and fire again about wanting to do good and about wanting to get really good.“
Roberts was really excited when McCann sent a letter in October announcing plans to reopen in November. “He’s hearing us,” she said. “We’ve got the superintendent onboard. He’s quoting from news articles that are legitimate.” But that excitement changed to frustration and anger when those plans were cancelled a month later.
Pace asked a question on many parents’ minds. “At what point then does our emotional health mean as much as our physical health,” she asked. “The school says there are counselors ready to help you. And I said my kids don’t need counseling. Give me friends. And they can’t do that if we’re locked in our house afraid of our own freaking shadows.”
“The more of us that stand up, the sooner that normal is going to return,” said Adams. “That’s the best thing — we need to stand up.”
“We actually moved to Richfield for the schools,” said Katie. “I’m here because I want my kids to have the option. I understand everyone’s situation is different. But I think we need to have a choice. Our family is 100 percent better with my kids in school.”
Max Tong misses his friends and his teachers, but he’s having problems.“I miss everybody. I mean, even the teachers now,” he said. “It’s just a lot different to have to learn online. It’s not the same. A lot of people are failing because of it.”
Max can’t stay focused on a computer all day long. “I’m having a hard time because it’s hard to stay focused,” he said. “It’s hard to really get things done. When you’re sitting around all day, it’s hard to get motivated.”
“It’s been really hard on my kids,” says his mom, Julie Tong. “They just don’t move; they don’t get up and move around. It’s just harder. They’re just staring at the screen all day long. We used to be so concerned about kids staring at screens. That used to be a problem that we were always trying to figure out how to fix. And now that’s all they do.”
“Honestly, it doesn’t make any sense why they can’t go back to school,” said Tong. “There’s just been way too many schools that have gone back and not had problems. The kids don’t spread Coronavirus.”
Tong has tried communicating with Gov. Jay Inslee’s office. What is the response? “I don’t hear anything,” she said. “It’s a one-way communication.”
One mom is looking for other options including private and online schools. “I tried to do that at the beginning of the year and enroll them at a different online school,” she said. “They were full, so I kept looking. I’m not giving them my money, if this is how they’re gonna do it.”
“Our superintendent needs to have the courage to stand up and do what’s right,” she said.
“The science is showing and the State School Superintendent Chris Reykdal has recently acknowledged the failure of distance learning to appropriately engage students,” said Mara Masters. “The number of failing kids points to a strong reason to resume in-person learning. We also see districts and private schools within the state where COVID case numbers are similar, open to in person learning and providing good models for moving ahead safely.”