The nugget. (Sisters, Or.) 1994-current, December 16, 2020, Page 31, Image 31

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    Wednesday, December 16, 2020 The Nugget Newspaper, Sisters, Oregon
31
‘Our kids are the sacrifices’: Parents push schools to open
By Sara Cline
Associated Press/Report for America
LAKE OSWEGO (AP) 4
The activism of Jennifer Dale
began when she watched her
third-grade daughter struggle
with distance learning, kick-
ing and screaming through
her online classes.
The mother of three ini-
tially sent emails to her local
school officials with videos of
the disastrous school days for
her middle daughter, Lizzie,
who has Down syndrome.
Over time, she connected
with other parents and joined
several protests calling for
school buildings to reopen.
Now she helps organize
events and has become a
voice for what has become a
statewide movement of par-
ents calling for children to
return to school in Oregon,
one of only a handful of states
that has required at least a
partial closure of schools as
long as local coronavirus
infections remain above cer-
tain levels.
<This just isn9t plausible
anymore. It9s not fair to the
kids, who I am afraid aren9t
getting an adequate educa-
tion,= Dale said during an
interview at her home in Lake
Oswego as she juggled her
work and helping her chil-
dren who are distance learn-
ing. <Something needs to
change. It is not working, and
our kids are the sacrifices.=
In debates nationwide
about opening schools, par-
ents unhappy with distance
learning are taking increas-
ingly vocal roles in calling
for more in-person instruc-
tion through grassroots orga-
nizing and legal challenges.
As the surge in coronavi-
rus cases brings a new round
of school closings, lawsuits
by parents have followed in
states including New York,
California, and Pennsylvania,
arguing that remote learning
is falling short of state edu-
cation standards and causing
harm to students.
In many communities,
parents have turned out at
demonstrations for school
reopenings, often greeted by
groups of other protesters
including teachers and their
union supporters asking for
improved safety measures
before students return.
The movement has
gained substantial traction in
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Oregon, where parents have
organized protests across the
state, including one at the
state Capitol in October that
drew hundreds of parents.
They have submitted peti-
tions with thousands of sig-
natures, posted anecdotes on
social media, and written to
state officials.
A coalition of parent
groups in the state is demand-
ing that Oregon officials
remove statewide barriers to
in-person learning by January
6 4 the 300th day since the
vast majority of students
were last in a classroom.
Based on data from the
state9s education depart-
ment, around nine percent
of Oregon public school
students have returned for
in-person school or a hybrid
schedule, a result largely
of stringent metrics set by
Governor Kate Brown for
school reopening.
Initially, schools weren9t
eligible to reopen their build-
ings, with some exceptions,
unless the state9s positivity
rate remained for three con-
secutive weeks below five
percent 4 a number the state
has not met since early July.
New reopening metrics
were announced in October,
allowing counties to transi-
tion toward in-person learn-
ing once they have fewer
than 200 new infections per
100,000 residents. But still,
state officials said only about
20% of Oregon students
would be eligible for in-per-
son learning.
Similarly in New York
City, Mayor Bill de Blasio set
one of the strictest metrics in
the country 4 schools would
close citywide if the city
reached a three-percent posi-
tivity rate. But, as businesses
in the city reopened, parents
argued that the metric should
be revisited and that students
should begin returning to the
classroom.
On Sunday, de Blasio
abandoned the three-percent
threshold, announcing that
students Pre-K through ele-
mentary school, who have
opted for in-person learning,
will return to school build-
ings on December 7.
Dale9s daughter Lizzie
was allowed to begin attend-
ing a portion of her classes
at her school in Oregon
in October, as part of an
arrangement for special edu-
cation students. She wears a
face shield and as the only
student in the classroom,
she does not get to see any
friends, but she prefers it to
<computer school.= Dale9s
other children are continuing
with distance learning.
Severe illness from the
virus among children and
teens is rare, particularly in
younger ones, but they can
often spread the disease with-
out showing any symptoms.
School administrators say
they see little evidence of
virus spread inside schools.
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While officials universally
stress the importance of in-
person education, states have
taken different approaches on
risk tolerance with the virus.
States
including
California, Hawaii, New
Mexico and North Carolina
also require school districts
to meet similar metrics in
order to reopen for hybrid or
in-person learning. On the
other end of the spectrum,
governors in states includ-
ing Arkansas, Florida, Iowa
and Texas have ordered that
schools make in-person
learning available.
During a recent day at
Dale9s home, she juggled her
children9s schoolwork with
her own work and prepar-
ing meals. As the school day
ended, Lizzie watched TV,
her son, Charlie, played with
his toys, and her daughter,
Maddi, FaceTimed a friend.
For the first time in the day,
she sat in her home office and
focused on her job.
She looked over the most
recent COVID-19 cases.
They were continuing to rise.
<At this point I am ner-
vous they won9t return at all
this school year,= Dale said.
<It9s time to begin learning to
live with COVID,= she said.
<We have learned how to do
this elsewhere, like grocery
stores and restaurants. We
can9t hide forever.=
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