Northshore parents frustrated with district's decision to close schools for days over COVID-19 concerns

BOTHELL, Wash. -- There is frustration from some parents of students in the Northshore School District. The district closed down Thursday for up to 14 days to try stop the spread of COVID-19.

Superintendent Dr. Michelle Reid said the district understands the hardships the closure could have on families.

“Overriding all of this is our health and safety, and social distancing is really necessary to help slow the spread of this disease,” said Reid.

Wednesday, she sent a letter to families and staff explaining her decision.

“We really want to be thoughtful about having a safe and healthy staff or we can’t have safe and healthy classrooms. So, at that point, I knew we couldn’t safely operate schools,” said Reid.

Reid said the district has a parent volunteer who tested positive for coronavirus. She said they’re also waiting on test results from an elementary school teacher who may have been exposed. Plus, Reid mentioned more than 500 staff fit the health department’s category of people at higher risk of becoming infected—all of which factored into the district’s decision to close all schools for up to 14 days and use online learning instead.

“It’s scary, on one hand, it’s really scary. But on the other hand, it’s frustrating being stuck at home,” said Wendy Hubbard, a parent with two kids in elementary school.

All students in the district have online learning programs so they aren’t missing out on some lesson plans. Hubbard said she believes kids need to be in class.

“They’re not going to be getting what they would normally get with their regular education around their peers. Peers are a big part of it, I think, the social aspect of school,” said Hubbard. “We might have to do what we did last year with that ‘snow-mageden’ where we had that week or two weeks of no school. This is kind of the same thing, but it’s just no snow.”

Hubbard is a substitute teacher with Northshore and another district. Due to the closure, she said she had to cancel other fill-in teaching jobs to be with her kids.

“I’m not a contracted teacher, so if I’m not working, I’m not making any money,” said Hubbard.

23,577 students are enrolled in the district and 14.8 percent of them are on free or reduced lunch. Reid said they recognize the closure directly impacts kids who depend on those meals. So, the district is finalizing a plan.

“How do we distribute food to families without bringing lots of people together, right? So, trying to figure out how to uniquely package particular meals and how we might distribute those or have families be able to pick them up,” said Reid.

She mentioned they’re also planning childcare programs to help working parents.

“We’re working with our community partners—our PTA, our YMCA, and other community partners to put together a program. We know we can’t do it alone as a school district and this is a community-wide issue,” said Reid.

Reid hopes to announce a food service plan by Friday morning. She said they’re trying to get that up and running as soon as possible for the kids that need those meals.

A district spokesperson said the efforts will be even greater than the food service offered last year when school was closed for several days during the snowstorm.