Students need our support now more than ever!
Bellevue, May 18 2021
An Open Letter to The Teachers of Bellevue School District,
This year has been fraught with challenges that you accepted and maneuvered quickly to adapt new and innovative teaching techniques. Thank you for all of the hard work and heart you put into making the best of an extremely stressful situation.
We have a lot of work to do as we head into the 2021-2022 school year. Many children will be behind academically, and possibly dealing with lingering mental and emotional issues. Teachers and parents need to join forces now more than ever to ensure our children's well being and success. We share the twin values of keeping our children safe while providing them with a world-class education.
We are writing to you directly because we are concerned that the BEA leadership has mischaracterized our goals and pitted parents against teachers, to the detriment of our children and the BSD system. We love and value our children's teachers, and want us all to succeed as a community. Regrettably the BEA leadership has characterized the community and the representatives they have elected to the school Board as racists. They have left behind underserved children that desperately needed to be in school full-time this year, and they have taken actions that are now putting the students’ and the teachers’ well-being at risk in the coming year. Ultimately they have left us divided and further exacerbated tensions.
Teachers, we ask that you please consider the following evidence as proof of an inadequate and malignant BEA leadership. You have the power to correct the course -- beginning by voting NO on any motion that may further divide the BSD community at upcoming BEA meetings.
Did you know?
BEA leadership uses “white supremacy” to depict our district and community. BEA President Allison Snow has stated in public Dr. Duran’s resignation as “an unrelenting attack by the entrenched white supremacy within our district and community.” Communications from BEA leadership have baselessly accused the BSD school board for failing to support equity work in the district. The BSD board is composed of five elected accomplished, educated and caring mothers who have dedicated endless hours on a voluntary basis to serve our BSD community. It is very distressing that the BEA president blatantly uses white supremacy to mischaracterize the Board and the community as a whole. Ms. Snow’s remarks are out of bounds and her hateful accusations will prevent us from moving forward together.
BSD is a minority majority district. Our community is becoming more diverse with 70% students from ethnic minority groups. Our diversity is reflected in the school board with two women of color serving. The Board has committed itself to serve all students while paying particular attention to the underserved communities. The diversity of our community is also reflected in the top leadership team of our district, with both the acting Superintendent and Deputy Superintendents being women of color.
The under-served communities were the most impacted during Covid. In our community and throughout the nation, children of lower socio-economic status have suffered greatly. Children whose parents work long hours outside the house remained at home alone on a device with little support instead of getting meaningful in-person instruction. Children with special needs and/or learning disabilities have fallen further behind. Mental illness has run rampant and Seattle Children’s Hospital Psychiatric Unit has been at capacity for months. Even as science evolved, CDC guidance changed, and surrounding districts went back for longer hours in-person, BSD students still do not have access to the same opportunity.
Families leaving the District has created a budget shortfall which is harming everyone. Long negotiations between the District and BEA delayed the reopening - leading to many families pulling their students out of the district to seek full-time, in-person educational opportunities elsewhere. As of Oct 1st 2020, BSD’s enrollment was down by 1,500 compared to the same period in 2019 according to official data published by OSPI. This reduction in enrollment led to a budget shortfall which resulted in the most recent layoff of the BEA members.
Continued alienation of families may cause levies to fail further affecting both the students and teachers. The impact of the exodus of families from the district extends far beyond just the enrollment number. Overall support of the district by the community is an all time low - in one school, family donations are at 20% of the level they were 2 years ago. There is a real risk that levies to be renewed in 2022 will not pass as fewer families have a vested interest in the district. Our levies pay for educational programs and services, including special education, the arts (e.g. K-5 art and music), STEM programming, access to second language classes in 6th-8th grades, athletics, and the 7th period. It only takes a few hundred families to change their vote from YES to NO for the levies to fail next year and the loss of funding for these programs will result in a large reduction in teaching staff that any recent layoffs will pale in comparison.
Teachers, we believe in you, our school board, our community and our children. Families want to hear your voices and not the divisive and hateful words of Ms. Snow. We can work together with renewed, stronger relationships to bring a better tomorrow to BSD.
Concerned Members of the Bellevue Community
School Is Essential
Asian Parents for Educational Excellence
Bellevue, March 22nd, 2021
Dear Governor Inslee,
We applaud you for your recent proclamation to help bring in-person learning opportunities to all students in the state of Washington. However as you are keenly aware limited in-person learning hours will not address the ever widening learning gap between many of our students and their peers who have access to full-time in-person instruction. They are not catching up -- they are falling further behind.
One of the key reasons that districts are not able to offer more in-person hours is the restriction imposed by the 6-feet social distancing requirement. We urge you to work with L&I, DOH and OSPI and update immediately the social distancing guideline in schools by following the latest recommendation from CDC. California has already adopted the 3-feet rule and Washington needs to do the same. We are aware that you already had a meeting with representatives of WEA on this issue. Regrettably WEA's latest claim that "each new change contributes to instability and disruption for our students and educators" illustrates a tone-deaf response to a crisis. Students not having access to fulltime school is the biggest and most destructive instability and disruption that hundreds of thousands of families in this state face everyday for over a year. With vaccines readily available for all educators there is no reason to continue limiting our students' access to the classroom.
We are confident that you will continue making decisions on this and related matters solely based on science and putting the interest of our students, the future of our community, above all. The clock is ticking and please let us know what we can do to help!
Bellevue, March 10th, 2021
Dear Governor Inslee, Superintendent Reykdal, and Senator Wellman,
This week many schools across WA have reached an unprecedented milestone that few schools in many parts of this country and around the world have ever done even during times of war -- staying closed for an ENTIRE year! To commemorate this monumental moment, families of BSD will have a RETURN TO SCHOOL event tomorrow. You are cordially invited to join the parents and students so you can address them about your plan to put an immediate end to this war on children. They deserve to hear from the leaders of this state directly after being kept away from school since last March.
Time: Thursday, the 11th, from 5:30 pm - 6:30 pm
Location: Highland Middle School, 15027 NE, Bel-Red Rd, Bellevue, WA 98007
We would be honored to have your presence.
Bellevue, January 7 2021
An Open Letter to The Teachers of Bellevue School District,
COVID threw all of us a curve ball. We will forever be grateful for the amount of heart and hard work you have poured into our children as you have done your best for online learning under extraordinary difficult circumstances.
But the time has come -- we are ringing the alarm bells. Children are carrying the heaviest burdens of our COVID lockdowns, at risk of long-lasting psychological distress and deficiencies in their education.
King County Public Health issued an advisory due to a surge in teen suicides. CDC data show the number of ED visits by those under eighteen related to psychological distress, suicidal ideation, and suicide attempts have been on an upward trajectory for months and were up by 60%, 40% and 70% respectively last October to November when compared to the numbers from the same period in 2019.
The safety net is gone. We are missing the opportunity to save children who are abused, neglected, or have undiagnosed learning disabilities. It is estimated that 100,000 cases of mistreatment of kids go unreported for each month of school closure in this country. The damage to these children cannot be reversed.
We don’t need studies to tell us what we are seeing in our homes: our children are breaking under the stress of virtual learning and social isolation.
Students need to be in school, where they can see you, ask questions, and engage their classmates.
We are in the minority keeping our children locked out of school:
Europe kept its schools open throughout lockdowns with great success. Many countries have already successfully contained 2ndor 3rd wave of the pandemic with students in school.
School districts in states where the outbreaks are more prevalent are open, including those in New York, Texas, Florida, Arizona, Ohio and Massachusetts. Washington has the 5th lowest COVID incidence rate in the lower 48 states.
New York City reopened their schools, which is the largest district in the country, after a brief closure last November. They went a step further by offering 5 days a week in person instruction. Their data have shown that school is the safest place to be in the community for students and teachers alike.
As of last October, 115 school districts in WA were providing in-person learning to more than half of their students. 90% of Washington’s 73,000 private school students are in full or hybrid in-person learning.
Closer to home, Bellevue Christian Schools, Bear Creek School, Kings School, Emerald Heights School, Cedar Park Christian Schools, Eastside Christian School, Arena Sports, and Bellevue Boys and Girls Clubs have been open for months without COVID outbreaks. The same holds true for BSD’s own on-site learning programs including BOOST.
Both CDC director Dr. Redfield and NIAID director Dr. Fauci have publicly stated on multiple occasions that schools can safely open and they should be. Study after study shows that schools are not COVID hot spots. The risk to children from COVID is negligible. In fact, their risk of death from accidents is more than an order of magnitude higher. COVID recovery rate is estimated to be 99.98% for the age group of 20-49 and 99.5% for 50-69 based on the research data used by CDC in its COVID planning guide. Sweden, where school stayed mostly open throughout the pandemic, found that schoolteachers had an age-adjusted relative risk of 0.43, where 1 represented the average risk of occupations excluding healthcare. It is a scientific consensus that it is extremely rare for teachers to catch COVID from children in a school setting. The majority of the transmissions in school are staff-to-staff as reconfirmed by a recent WHO report.
The longer the school stays closed, the more concern we have for the quality of our education system long term. The number of students failing their courses in our district have doubled so far this school year and less than half of middle school and 1/3 of high school students said that online learning was going well in a recent district survey. Educational inequity is growing rapidly as our schools remain closed. The learning gaps our teachers will be asked to contend with will be of Grand Canyon proportions, damaging the quality of our school system for years to come.
Two thirds of K-2 families in our district have chosen hybrid learning and the percentage is even higher among those with low socioeconomic status. LWSD, MISD, and SVSD have already started or will start very soon the in-person learning option for their students. Your students are counting on you to tell union and district leaders that they deserve the same opportunity.
Heroes are made during times of crisis. Be with the children and show them why you have chosen the honorable career of being an educator -- they will have a lifetime to thank you for it. With the one-year mark for school closure rapidly approaching, let’s work together with a sense of urgency to provide the children an option to be back to what is absolutely essential: school.
Concerned Parents and BSD Community Members