Melissa Masias 0

ReOpen Walla Walla Schools

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This is a Op-ed letter from a local parent to the Walla Walla School Board members regarding the reopening of our schools. It was extremely well written, as the author did diligent research of each and every thing that is included in the letter. If after reading it, you agree with its contents and the message it is sending to our school board members I urge you to click the link below and join in on making our voices heard loud and clear.

This letter along with it's s signatures will be delivered to the District several days prior to the next calendar meeting on Nov 3rd...

Dear Walla Walla School Board Members,

We are the parents of children in our public schools who support reopening our schools. We would ordinarily write that we have children that attend our local public schools, but for the past seven months the only thing our children have attended is our homes. We are 100% in favor of opening our schools RIGHT NOW!

Let us explain a few points of contention that we think you may have overlooked when making the decision to not open our schools.

Point 1: In direct response to the COVID crisis, Walla Walla Public Schools diverted hundreds of thousands of dollars from the budget to create the online model of learning for those families not wishing to return to in-person learning when schools open. The program was designed specifically to retain the educational dollars in the District of those families that might have otherwise transferred to traditional home schooling, thus loosing the State funding of each child who leaves. This program was not an existing program that was retro-fitted to meet the needs of COVID, it was designed, implemented and exists today in direct response to the COVID crisis and the needs brought forth because of it. For the School Board to make the decision of not opening our schools because some families have health concerns regarding returning to in-person learning is ridiculous when the choice for continued online learning is available to those families through this newly created program. For the School Board to make the decision to remain closed based on those families' concerns, you are in essence signaling to the community that you do not have trust and confidence in this new program to beable to handle the demands of the online learning community. We know that you did not mean to signalthat – but when the program is readily available to those in need – there is no reason you can't open the schools and leave the choice of which model to utilize in the hands of the parents.

Point 2: In an effort to meet the needs of our Special Needs population, the School Board has allowed this group of students access to the schools for in-person learning. While we do not contend that these children should not be in the building for in-person learning, we do maintain that in giving them access to such models of learning while simultaneously denying the rest of the children the same in-person learning within the building – you have effectively discriminated and segregated students. Here's your Civics lesson for the day – this is a violation of the 14th Amendment of our Constitution. The 14th Amendment requires that ALL children be given EQUAL educational opportunity. We can all agree that in-person learning far surpasses online learning. Therefor, by providing in-person learning to one segment of the population, but not ALL, you are violating our constitutional rights. Again, we are not suggesting that our Special Needs children be forced to stay at home, on the contrary, we're stating loudand clear OPEN THE SCHOOLS FOR ALL!!

Point 3: It's been discussed that there is fear of reopening the schools on the part of some of our school employees due to their health concerns. To this, we have to point out that employees in other industries have to complete their jobs under these same COVID conditions. Notably, when the work day ends andall of our school employees leave their protected bubble of a work environment (because their buildings are locked down and deny access to everyone but employees) these same school employees go grocery shopping at the same store the rest of us do, so why is the grocery store clerks Health able to be maintained while completing their tasks in-person, but our school employees' health cannot be maintained? Or, how is it possible that the tens of thousands of our population who are employed in health care, police, fire, corrections, municipalities, restaurants (basically EVERY other industry in our economy) have been able to figure it out by now!? The rest of us have to figure out how to operate under these new conditions, why is that our school employees are exempt from what the rest of us haveto accomplish???? Short answer, we do not find it acceptable that our School Board cannot navigate how to assist our school employees in completing their jobs in person. In speaking to school employees, it is apparent that the majority of them are not fearful of returning to in-person learning, that is your fear. It's your fear that if a teacher contracts COVID, a lawsuit will ensue. Please stop allowing your fears of lawsuits govern your decision making process in relation to our children.

Point 4: The children of our school employees are allowed into the school building to complete their online learning within the school building. Campfire has been provided for these children on the schoolpremises, at a lower than normal rate, subsidized by 40% by the School District. Now, let us first make note of the fact that this subsidy is not provided by the Teachers' Union (which if done so by the Union,would have been completely acceptable since it would be their union money, not tax-payer money) but moreover, it was negotiated in response to the COVID crisis, but available ONLY to School District employees, and paid for with tax provided school district funding. So here's the point/question, why don't the rest of the tax-paying, parents of young children receive the same tax-payer paid for benefit ofsubsidized Campfire for their the school building? Shouldn't we all receive the same benefits from our school budget? While we are not apposed to the children of our school employees being granted access to the school building – but by granting them access and denying it to the rest of us - it sure feels like discrimination. Now, please understand that we are not suggesting that the SchoolDistrict providing Campfire for the school employees with young children was not a needed solution tothe childcare problem brought forth during COVID. We are stating clearly that by providing certain solutions to only School District employees with the tax dollars, the School Board has discriminated against the remainder of the population who has the exact same child care issues, but we are forced to meet those needs ourselves and do so unsubsidized.

Let's face it, in-person learning far exceeds any online instruction, period. It crucially important to take a moment to highlight the efforts of our school employees – because we do not want the take away of this letter to be that we in any way do not value, appreciate, and recognize the tremendous efforts of ourschool employees. We adore our schools! Our schools are amazing from the bottom up. Our secretaries that greet us are some of the most beautiful souls that truly take care of the needs of our kids. Our custodians go above and beyond and even though their job description may not specify “caring for children”, let us tell you - they do! Our paras are on point, they work for the least pay and let us just say, they work hard! Our lunch ladies nourish our kids' hearts, just as much as they nourish their bellies. Our teachers are spectacular! They provide an education that is well planned and executed, they love on our kids and encourage them in ways we as parents cannot. Our principals are miracle workers,we promise you that!

The old adage that “It takes a village to raise a child” is relevant still today. By voting “NO” to openingour schools last night, you are depriving from our children their village. As parents, we simply cannot be everything to and for our children. We cannot. We depend on our childrens' support system, which beyond parents is composed of teachers, coaches, secretaries, lunch ladies, paras, friends. Because you, our voted in School Board, are the sole decision makers – we are at your mercy.... for now. Make no mistake, we voted you in, we can vote you out. Please reopen Walla Walla Public Schools immediately.

We believe if forced, we will need to leverage these points of inadequately providing EQUAL ACCESS to a quality education as a method of persuading you, our voted in School Board, to open the schools. At some point in the very near future,if our schools remain closed while each and every single surrounding school is open, a great majority of us may find ourselves researching new schools to send our children to, when were the school board acts appropriately.


Walla Walla School District Parents and Guardians

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