by Ardel Jala, Hazel Wolf PTSA Racial Equity Committee Co-Chair
My colleague on a zoom call for work asked me, “Did you hear the news? Seattle Public Schools will be 100% online learning in the fall.” With the transmission rates rising, I knew this announcement from Superintendent Juneau was likely. It still felt like a gut punch. What would we do? I didn’t want a repeat of the spring. It had been difficult to keep our boys focused and engaged in the virtual classroom. When working at home this spring, I realized in my workday I was never fully present either as a parent or an employee. It was frustrating and I know I wasn’t alone in that feeling.
It took me awhile to figure out that the online recommendation by the Superintendent was not a done deal. Seattle Public Schools (SPS) still had to negotiate the terms of returning to school with the Seattle Education Association (SEA) – the union that represents Seattle Public School Educators. The school district came up with draft recommendations for a return to school, including draft remote learning schedule, special education services, and grading policies. Those teaching and learning recommendations must be voted on by the School Board on August 12. More info planning for re-entry can be found on the SPS website here.
It is almost three weeks before school and we don’t have the specifics about what school will look like when we go back to school. Amidst all of this uncertainty, families are trying to figure out what is best for their child’s learning and family situation as a return to school. As you look at solutions, ask yourself, is the solution you are considering equitable? Covid19 is affecting Black, Indigenous, Latinx and other people of color the most. There is already an educational opportunity gap in this country. What happens to that gap when students move to private schools or are provided learning opportunities that their peers do not have? Who gets left behind?
Families may be considering private school or homeschooling. Please reconsider. By withdrawing your child from Seattle Public Schools, that will directly take funds away from the school district. Those funds are needed to keep as robust a learning experience as possible for all. You may think that by moving your child from SPS, another student will have an opportunity to join this option school. That is true. However, why are you moving your student? What are you solving? What access to learning is private school affording that public school is not? While changing schools may make sense on some levels, is this solution equitable?
Families may be considering pandemic pods for their children. Some families may need these for childcare. They may be seeking them for social interaction. Others see a potential gap in what the schools may be able to provide via virtual learning and want to provide supplemental learning. Much has been written about the inequity of pandemic pods. See articles here and here. In some areas, public school teachers have been approached to lead these private pandemic pods. Please don’t do that. We need all our Hazel Wolf K8 teachers.
This article “On Covid 19 and Micro-schooling, Pods and More” by Integrated Schools shared these items to consider:
- In thinking about my own childcare needs, am I thinking about solutions that do not further exacerbate existing inequities?
- Am I clear on what is a need and what is a desire?
- Can I consider how I might be more focused on equity – on solutions for those with the most needs?
- Instead of thinking “how can I make sure my (privileged) kid doesn’t fall behind?” – can I ask myself, “how can I help to strengthen the public institutions we all depend on?”
- How can I channel my energy, fear, rage into demands that benefit ALL kids? Into supporting structures that will help my entire community?
- Are my solutions for my kids founded on a fear of missing out on what my privileged peers are getting for their children, or on what my kids truly need?
- Can I think about what’s best for my child in the same way we think about public health – that is, as something where the solutions lie not in maximizing individual benefit, but in working together for the greater good, as a community?
- Can I lean into relationships in my community to inform my ideas about what may be needed for my community in the fall?
- Can I consider giving my district a chance to offer support to the most vulnerable first – special education students, emerging English language speakers, kids who rely on school for meals, etc, before making demands that serve my kid?
- Have I searched for local organizations (particularly those run by BIPOC) who are pushing for equitable approaches to these current situations and can I join with them?
I don’t know that we will have a clear vision of what return to school will look like for our children until we actually return to school. And even then, I think that vision will need to be fluid and adapt to changing student needs as school and family situations change during this health epidemic. Throughout this year, I hope that we can come together as a community to figure out how best to adapt. I hope that return to school and virtual learning doesn’t extend inequalities. I hope that we as a community find ways to support all Hazel Wolf K8 students, especially our English language learners, those with individual education plans (IEPs), those who are food insecure, our special education students and those students furthest removed from educational justice.
While the above reflects my personal opinion, I’ve posted it to this site with the agreement and support of the Hazel Wolf PTSA Racial Equity Committee. Pandemic pods and withdrawing students from SPS are examples of the growing inequities surfacing as public schooling evolves during Covid19. There is no single solution that will work for all. Please feel free to send comments or questions to: email@example.com We welcome all dialogue.