ISSAQUAH, Wash. - The Issaquah School District had plans to welcome elementary school students to the classroom starting this week. Now those plans are postponed.
“I don’t know how long our society will accept just keeping our kids at home which has consequences,” mom Marina Subbaiah said.
Q13 News first spoke with Marina back in September when she was happy to hear about the district’s plans to reopen. ISD said they would allow kindergarten and first graders back this week followed by the older elementary school students coming back in intervals.
Marina who has a second-grader in the district is now disappointed with the postponement.
Marina who is a nurse says she has been watching COVID trends and research closely with schools that have reopened across the country. She also says local private schools are doing in-person learning and proving that communities can do it with mitigations and health protocols in place.
“There are a lot of indicators that schools are not sites of super spreader events so I think it’s worth trying,” Subbaiah said.
Subbaiah says she understands that many families do not feel comfortable returning to the classroom and that is why she supports the remote option. But she is also advocating for in-person learning for families who feel differently.
The district’s parent survey from late September shows that nearly 49% of parents preferred to stay fully remote while nearly 52% wanted in-person learning.
Superintendent Ron Thiele says the situation is even more complicated now with COVID cases increasing recently.
“We are back now to the high risk, as that is happening, even my principals are getting phone calls saying I wanted to do hybrid but now I want to do fully remote,” Thiele said.
Then there is the logistical challenge of matching the teachers to the students who want to come back to the classroom while also running a remote option at the same time.
“Trying to run two parallel system, one fully remote, one hybrid, there are variables of complexities there that have been problematic for us,” Thiele said.
Thiele says he’s been asked why he announced reopening dates before working out all the details. He called that a fair criticism and the push came from his strong desire to bring kids back. Thiele’s hope was to work with the different labor unions to make it happen. There has been some progress with more than 150 students with special needs back in the classroom four days a week.
“I really genuinely believe it’s the best thing to do for students and it can be done in an appropriate way, not a perfect way, I’m not saying there won’t be a case of COVID when we bring students back in but we can mitigate it,” Thiele said.
But Thiele says current circumstances are challenging and it’s unclear when elementary school students will return.
“It may be a ways out, I don’t know, I just don’t want people to give up hope to get our students back,” Thiele said.
Thiele says the district will continue to work with teachers to come up with the best plan so they are ready when it's time to reopen.