Member insights on schools reopening - Part 2
WEA conducted several focus groups with members across the state about reopening schools this fall. With guidelines provided by the Office of the Superintendant of Public Instruction and the Department of Health, school districts should consider the experience, expertise and observations of those working within the system. Here is some of what we learned from our members.
Kena Petersen, Biology teacher at Battleground High School
Kena Petersen, Biology teacher at Battleground High School: The main religious sect in our community has very large families. Young men are expected to work full time in a skilled trade (often a business owned by their father or an uncle) whenever they are not in school. Most of my male high school students are working full time right now and not doing the classwork. The girls are very busy planting gardens, doing home crafts, and teaching their younger siblings. One girl wrote to me last week to apologize for not getting all of her classwork turned in. She attached pictures of her tutoring siblings and working in the vegetable garden. I replied telling her that tutoring her younger siblings was the most important thing she can be doing right now. She was relieved that I support the expectations within their culture.
Alison Joyce, Tumwater Middle School
Alison Joyce, Tumwater Middle School: I know many schools share nurses and other health staff. So it will be important to hire more in each district to have available at all times and have others trained in case of illness or quarantine. I also think it will be important to have the option to continue distance learning for families and staff that are part of the at-risk population or have family members that are vulnerable.
Jason Ronquillo, Yelm High School
As a P.E. teacher, my work has transitioned into content knowledge and health education. Movement was the first and foremost thing we did. Now it’s the concept of movements more than anything. The performance piece has become less important and the ideas piece is growing. We’ve had to change the expectation of how often kids are moving. I’m not there to monitor whether they’re doing the movements in my Google classroom lessons.
I like the idea of a hybrid model of learning or an A/B schedule, but I worry teachers like myself may begin losing our jobs because districts will put even more priorities on particular subjects that I don't teach. If we’re in a model where we do not go back to school, I fear that down the road a reduction in force is a possibility. I worry about going into contract negotiations and teachers with the least seniority. And our district has a cap where if you’re over a cap of students per day, you receive incentive pay. I worry that districts would want to increase those caps because of the online aspect of things.
Crystal Bennett, Port Angeles High School
Crystal Bennett, Port Angeles High School: Families are in crisis. They hate online platforms, most are just trying to keep their head above water emotionally. Especially with my high needs students, the families are really struggling with day-to-day life.
Young Chung, Liberty Elementary
Young Chung, Liberty Elementary, Marysville: My school is a Title 1 school, and the impact of Corona hits harder for families with low income and limited resources. Many of them live in a housing project so it has been very challenging to keep the kids indoors all this time. Some families asked for resources so they can pay rent or bills. I have a handful of families who have not responded to my repeated contact attempts. Their kids have not participated in the small group lessons since the school closure. It is concerning.
Follow us on instagram, @wa_education, to see more member opinions on schools reopening.