Pandemic Pods and More: A Message from our HW PTSA REC Co-Chair

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 hereIn 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:  

  1. In thinking about my own childcare needs, am I thinking about solutions that do not further exacerbate existing inequities? 
  2. Am I clear on what is a need and what is a desire?
  3. Can I consider how I might be more focused on equity – on solutions for those with the most needs?
  4. 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?”
  5. How can I channel my energy, fear, rage into demands that benefit ALL kids? Into supporting structures that will help my entire community?
  6. 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?
  7. 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?
  8. Can I lean into relationships in my community to inform my ideas about what may be needed for my community in the fall?   
  9. 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?  
  10. 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:  ptsa_rec@hazelwolfk8.org We welcome all dialogue. 

Legislative Update: Two USDA Programs Help Kids Get Food Through Summer

Earlier this month the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced a nationwide extension of a program that has been helping to feed families. Local partners – such as schools and nonprofit organizations – have been serving meals to kids during coronavirus school closures. These partners will be able to continue serving free meals to all children through August 31. This extension is for a waiver of  area eligibility, allowing all children in all areas to receive free meals. Typically, USDA-funded summer meals sites are only for low-income areas. The nearest location to Hazel Wolf with this service is Olympic Hills elementary school at 13018 20th Ave NE.

In addition, a new USDA program called Pandemic-EBT provides food-purchasing benefits, equal to the value of school meals, to households with children who would qualify for free or reduced-price meals at school based on household income. To see if this can help your family, call the Lake City customer service center at 206-684-7526 or visit https://www.dshs.wa.gov/esa/community-services-offices/basic-food

Families can also use Meals for Kids, an interactive finder with more than 60,000 sites to find free meals for children in their area.

Today at 5pm – Hazel Wolf Community Gathering – Support Black Lives

Hazel Wolf PTSA Racial Equity Committee invites our school community to join together to stand united in support of all Black lives and against racial injustice.

When: Friday, June 12 at 5pm

Gathering at two locations: Hazel Wolf K-8 School AND Lake City Way at 125th St. (SE Corner near Chase Bank)

Come rain or shine. Bring your Black Lives Matter signs. We’ll be practicing social distancing, so bring a mask if you have one. Any questions, please contact Zoe at communityoutreach@hazelwolfk8.org  

Hazel Wolf K-8 PTSA Statement on Racial Inequities and Injustice

The deaths of George Floyd and too many others weigh heavily on all of us, including the PTSA
at Hazel Wolf. We are also in the midst of a pandemic crisis that is also impacting our
vulnerable communities disproportionately during this time. This is a time to pause, to listen,
to contemplate, and – most importantly – to stand up and take action.

Generally, the work of the PTSA is not controversial: it’s about fundraising to support tutoring,
playground equipment, overnight camping trips, and pancake breakfasts. We are proud at
Hazel Wolf to have funded grants for art, music, PE, and engineering; to have helped with the
Read-A-Thon and Back to School Nights; to have held annual auctions and restaurant nights. All
of this work, which involves hundreds of hours and dozens of volunteers, is directed to
enhancing the quality of life for students and teachers, as well as to providing valuable
community building.

Sometimes, we are called to step up our efforts at community building in more complex ways.
The Hazel Wolf PTSA last year decided that “increasing awareness of racial equity” would be
our primary area of focus for the 2019-2020 school year. We publicly declared that we would
focus on making decisions using a racial equity lens, by listening to students and parents of
color and by offering community, staff, parent, and student education opportunities. We meant
it, even as we acknowledge that the focus, if it is to be meaningful, requires stepping out of
traditional comfort zones, and taking actions as well as saying words.

Last October, the students of Hazel Wolf K-8 E-STEM School in north Seattle held a peaceful
protest. The students, supported by the PTSA’s Racial Equity Committee (REC), were protesting
the use of the N-word and other racial slurs at school, and asking for accountability around
what happens to those who use the slurs. Our principal, Ms. Nelsen, and other administrators,
teachers, and staff, as well as dozens of family members and siblings, listened to and cheered
for the students who spoke out. The peaceful protest lasted about 15 minutes in front of the
school and received some coverage in Seattle media.

The protest and the coverage evoked a lot of emotions. There was shock that racist incidents
happened at Hazel Wolf. There was dismay that the protest was mentioned in the news. For
some, the students’ descriptions of racist incidents were a wakeup call. For others, it was
nothing new. The recent murder of George Floyd, one in a tragic series of similar events, has
brought great grief to our community. As parents and as PTSA members, we work hard for the
betterment and safety of our beloved children.

Among 46-year-old George Floyd’s words while dying were a call for his deceased mother, a
wrenching reminder of the bond of family that we all share. We also know he leaves behind a 6-
year-old daughter who has lost her father in a public, painful way.

George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery are all names in the news these days due to
racist violence—they are also folks like us with moms and dads and children. The recent
protests not only here in Seattle but across the country and the world have reminded us in
daunting ways of the work to be done to heal our community from the trauma of racism. As
happened after our peaceful October protest, the recent deaths and reactions are shocking to
some, old news to others.

We know that a PTSA cannot solve these problems. We at Hazel Wolf also know that we cannot
look aside. We cannot shrug our shoulders. We will continue to do the work we have done
successfully in the past: supporting the needs of our teachers and students, through the
traditional and valuable events and grants. More than that, though, we will take seriously our
responsibility to create equity for our black students, our immigrant students, our students of
color. We will continue to support Black Lives Matter at School and Black History Month, as we
have done every February. We have also offered to support professional development for our
teachers (who, as is true at most schools, are predominantly white) around racial equity
trainings. We will support efforts to bring in more black and other teachers of color, who are
role models for all our students. We will fund our Family Support programs, which provide food
and other supplies to our low-income families. We will recognize that many of our low-income
families are families of color, due to the systemic and entrenched history of racism that has
created tremendous disparities in health care, education, employment, and more.

The REC has created an online Community of Practice for white women to focus on anti-racism
work. The REC is also offering an online Community Gathering and Healing Space for black
parents and caregivers. As we learned from Erin Jones, our guest speaker at the January
General Session, we have so much more in common and we must continue to make progress as
a united front – with authenticity and appreciation for each other as human beings. We, as the
REC and PTSA, are grateful for the way our whole school community has not just talked (though
talking is important) but is also walking the difficult path toward racial justice.

Sincerely,

The Hazel Wolf K-8 PTSA Board and Racial Equity Committee

Nathan Hale High School Racial Equity Team Hosts Antiracist Car/Bike Parade Saturday, May 30

From Nathan Hale High School:

Antiracist Car/Bike Parade – Tomorrow, May 30
Join us Saturday, May 30, 9:30 a.m. – Car/Bike Parade Begins at 10 a.m.

Dear Families,

To encourage our community to strive towards an antiracist mindset, to show our commitment to antiracist action and to demonstrate our solidarity with those who have been victims of racial injustice throughout our nation, the Nathan Hale High School Racial Equity Team invites you to join us for an informal car parade in the Lake City area this Saturday, May 30. We will start congregating in the Nathan Hale staff parking lot (corner of 110th St and 30th Ave NE) at 9:30 a.m. and then begin our drive at 10 a.m. along the following route: from school we will drive north on Lake City Way, turn east (right) on 135th, south (right) on 35th,  west (right) on 130th, and then south (left) on Lake City Way to return to school.

Click Antiracist Protest Map_5.30.20.jpg for a map of the route.

We hope you can roll with us on Saturday. Bring your voice, your signs, and your commitment to justice for all people. Let’s make some noise.

NOTE: We will be adhering to social distance guidelines during this event.

Legislative Update, Call to Action

Federal Rule Change: School and Summer Meals

The USDA is trying to change rules about who can access free or reduced-price school meals. This would be especially hard on Seattle kids because our high cost of living offsets incomes, allowing some more middle-income families to get subsidized school meals.

Additionally, if fewer kids in a school qualify for subsidized meals, the school can lose its Title 1 status. That means a major loss of funding and supports that help reduce class sizes and provide wrap-around services. In our neighborhood, Olympic Hills and Northgate Elementary schools currently qualify for Title 1.

Technically, a comment period on a proposed rule is not a voting exercise. However, hearing from a large group of parents can make a difference. Submitting unique comments is better than form letters, for those who can send something personal. In addition to the harm this would cause locally, here are some key points:

·  The Regulatory Impact Analysis failed to include the rule’s impact on the School Breakfast Program and National School Lunch Program

·  The draft rule fails to analyze long-term impacts and associated costs, including potential for reduced high school graduation rates, adult earnings, and community health impacts

·  The draft rule fails to account for impacts to Title 1 schools in high-cost areas. Loss of Title 1 funding and supports could be catastrophic to the educational objectives set by Department of Education for these schools.

The reforms were announced on January 17, 2020. For additional details about these proposals, see: School Meals Reform FactsheetSummer Meals Reform Factsheet and USDA Sets the Record Straight on Proposed School Meals Flexibilities.

The comment period will be extended 30 days and ends April 22, 2020. This extension will allow schools, state agencies, stakeholders, and others who are working tirelessly to ensure children have food to eat while schools are closed the opportunity to provide valuable feedback. Please submit comments via regulations.gov.

State Legislative Session Closes

The Washington State legislature adjourned “sine die” on March 12. To support COVID-19 efforts, the Legislature appropriated $200 million, of which $25 million was set aside in a new unemployment account created to support employees who need these benefits during school and business closures and time off to care for themselves or affected family members. On the final day of session, several amendments were adopted, including one that gives the State Board of Education the authority to grant waivers for students in the class of 2020 or before who are on track to graduate but are affected by school closures.

A pdf with a full recap from the Washington State PTA on education-related budget and legislative items is here

Black Lives Matter at School Follow-up

A message from Principal Debbie Nelsen:

“Dear Hazel Wolf K-8 Families, 

Last week Hazel Wolf K-8 made Black Lives Matter Week a priority. We took time away from some of our typical daily learning to embrace this important work and to teach our students about the importance of the history leading to this week, as well as steps moving forward.  

Across the grade levels and content areas, the staff provided students with rich opportunities to dig deep inside themselves to understand and reflect.

On Monday, the MS (as a whole) attended an assembly on the history of and necessity for Black Lives Matter Week lead by Erin Jones. To help with the continuation of this work, Ms. Jones shared with us not only the power point presentation with accompanying notes, but also included additional slides about the N-word and suggestions about learning teachers could do moving forward.

On Tuesday, each MS grade level attended a presentation with Erin Jones in which they participated in a variety of interactive activities. She shared her story, including personal experiences with racism and the reasons she has devoted her life to this work. She also spoke about the importance of words and how they are used. She led the kids in an activity where they used post-its to write down negative words/phrases they have been called and have called others and then collected them. This was followed by an activity where the students then wrote down all of the positive words/phrases they have been called, have called others, or would like to hear used. Those were collected at the end of each session.

Throughout the remainder of the week and continuing into an additional week, students participated in specific Black Lives Matter lessons in their classes as well as in long-term units incorporating Black Lives Matter themes. 

As part of our conclusion to Black Lives Matter Week, MS students gathered in the courtyard for a symbolic ending to the use of those negative words where the post-its are burned in front of them. In the MS, their positive words were turned into a “positivity garland” hanging throughout the hallways as a visual reminder of what they want to hear and say.

We thank you for the conversations you have had, and hopefully continue to have, with your child.  If you have feedback about any of the activities during Black Lives Matter week that you would like to share please let me know.

For additional information, including resources from Erin Jones’ talk “Black Lives Matter at School: The Power and History of Words” at the PTSA General Session Jan. 22, 2020, visit the Racial Equity Committee webpage.