When schools throughout King County announced plans in late summer to start the 2020–2021 school year with distance learning, many families began scrambling to find tables, chairs, and other items to create a conducive learning environment. Parents cleared out garages, shifted furniture, and bought whiteboards, preparing for the long haul. But with school starting this week, it is clear the greatest stress points are the uncertainty of the school year ahead and the reality of parents’ increased involvement in their children’s schooling — regardless of their own work schedules, education levels, or other responsibilities.
Returning to school this year will look and feel different than it has in the past. Gone are some of the rituals: pictures in front of the school sign, hunting for homeroom teachers’ classrooms, reunions with classmates. This year, students in Seattle and many South King County districts will be returning to school at home through remote/distance learning.
Proving to be every bit the party that its title intimated, the Rainier Beach Back 2 School Bash – put on by Rainier Beach Community Empowerment Coalition– commandeered the plaza of the Rainier Beach Community Center this past Saturday.
Replete with a DJ Booth (DJ Uncle Guy) that blasted out a diverse mixture of hits that inspired an impromptu group dance to Pharrell Williams’ song Happy, sequined frolicking lion-dragons of Vovinam that enthralled the hundreds of children and adults in attendance with a lively performance that spilled out all over the plaza, and dozens of pop up tents with animated host- which included Seattle Parks and Recreation, Seattle City Light, Bikeworks and Got Green amongst others – it appeared that the Champs-Elysees had been transported to the corner of Rainier and Henderson for a few hours.
However, the Bash – in its eleventh year- wasn’t all fun and games. As it also functioned as a school supply giveaway for area youth, who were required to visit several resource tables stationed at the event – which provided everything from information on public safety to higher education- in order to receive a back to school package which included notebooks, backpacks, calculators, and other necessary, and increasingly costly, school items.
“This was so fun and exciting! I was so glad for all the opportunities to speak to people at the (resource) tables, and get a ton of information that you don’t normally get.” Said Chris Smith, a young attendee who brought along his mother and younger sister and left with a new backpack and a stack of free books courtesy of the Bash.
Usually held in Beer Sheva Park, the event was forced to relocate to the plaza due to the construction currently taking place at the park. The new locale actually appeared to boost community attendance as close to a record number packed the square just outside the community center, including many who found out about the Bash through happenstance.
“I was just driving, on my way home, and I saw all this activity at the plaza. I didn’t know what exactly was going on but it looked public. So, I made a U-turn and picked up two of my grandchildren from their place and said: Let’s go check this out!” Commented Patricia Newman, a 19 year resident of the Rainier Beach area who was attending for the first time.
With the huge crowds displaying the rich cultural diversity that the southend of Seattle has become identified with, Gregory Davis -who heads up the coalition- was ecstatic that the turnout flew in the face of what he feels is an unfair perception that brands the community as fragmented.
“I’m overjoyed at the number of people here! This is our eleventh year, so we knew that we’d get interest from the community and that’s what we’re trying to do – to be a community building environment. We’re excited about it, as a community we want to be able to support people with resources and information as they go back to school.” Davis said.
As hundreds flocked to the event right up until its waning hours, community solidarity seemed a theme latched onto by most attendees. “Rainier Beach really gets a bad rap. Yes, there are a few people who engage in activities that give everyone else a bad name, but everyone here, and there are a lot of us, are here to show support for this community we live in and that we aren’t going anywhere.” Said September Jewel an event volunteer.
In an area that has seemingly made headlines for all the wrong reasons in recent months, event participants hoped that besides school supplies and community socializing, the Bash would also provide a glaring counterpoint to the negative portrayal that the Rainier Beach area has received in much of the media .
“This is really what the truth is, what you’re seeing here.” Asserted Davis. “The diversity, the people cooperating with each other. This is what we’re about. Look, naturally we’re not responsible for the press that gets out there about us, but if people came here and saw this they would know what the real truth is in terms of what’s happening in South Seattle.”
With school buses being cut and school start times skewed many of us working parents will be sending our kids to school on Metro or on foot in just a few weeks. If you’re within the 2-mile ‘walk zone’ of your child’s school then your child will not be riding a school bus this fall. As many of us are not afforded the luxury of beginning our workday at 10 a.m. (can you say 9:30 start times?) our older kids will be in charge of locking up & getting themselves to & from school. Add that to the near daily reports of phone snatchings and home invasions and anxiety ensues. Here are some ways of teaching our kids to protect themselves while we’re not with them, both at home & on the road.
Somewhere to start:
Speak honestly with your child about being aware of their surroundings while using a phone or other electronic device. This includes while riding the bus or train as well as while waiting at the stop or station. The idea to convey is that being aware of your surroundings makes you appear to be less of an easy target.
Discuss plans of action if someone is acting aggressively or making your child feel uncomfortable.
Communicate some common sense rules about locking up around the house, including locking up bikes & not leaving expensive items near open ground floor windows.
Additionally the South Precinct Crime Prevention contact, Mark Solomon (email@example.com ), offers the following tips to share with your family:
STUDENT PERSONAL SAFETY
Violent crime in Seattle is one of the lowest for cities it’s size in the nation. And “Stranger Danger,” one of the most frightening types of reports in the news, is actually one of the rarest types of crimes. With that said, there are no guarantees that you will never become a victim of violent crime. However, there are some basic, sensible and easy to follow precautions that can lessen your chances of this type of encounter.
Follow your intuition. Pay close attention to the uncomfortable feelings that often warn us of potential danger. “Trust your Gut.” If you feel that a situation is not right, move out of the situation. Trusting your own instincts that a situation feels “wrong” can be the best personal safety tool you have. Don’t be afraid to cross the street, return to a business or ask for help based on that “funny feeling.” You may be right.
Be aware of your surroundings. In social situations, be alert to places and situations that make you vulnerable. Know who is nearby or who may be following you.
Walk confidently and alertly. Avoid walking alone and using shortcuts.
Walk with others and stay on paths that are well lit where you can easily see and be seen.
Carry your valuables safely. Don’t display items (e.g., I-pods, cash, phones), when walking to and from your destination.
BEING SAFEON THE BUS OR LIGHT RAIL
Maintain situational awareness on the bus, train and at transit stops.
While waiting for public transportation, keep your back close to a wall (or pole) so that you cannot be surprised from behind.
Don’t use or flash valuables like IPODS on the bus or train.
If there is a problem on the bus or train, notify the driver and/or call 911.
If someone is bothering you on the bus or train, notify the driver
If few people are on the bus or train, sit near the driver.
Use the transit schedules to minimize the length of time waiting for the bus or train.
Keep your purse, shopping bag, backpack, packages, etc., in your lap, on your arm, or between your feet — not by themselves on an empty seat.
Don’t let yourself doze off on the bus or train; it can make you an easy target.
If you feel uneasy about getting off at your usual stop, stay on until the next stop.
Guard transit passes like cash or other valuables (the school is not entitled to give you a new one if yours is lost or stolen).
BEING SAFEON THE STREET
Know your routes. Notice lighting, alleys, abandoned buildings, and street people.
If you are being followed or you see a person or group further down the street that makes you feel uncomfortable, cross the street, walk in another direction, or ask other people walking if you may walk a short distance with them.
Pick out places that you consider safer, places where you can either make a stand or reassure yourself that you are not being followed (i.e., lit porches, bus stops, stores, etc.).
Walk near the curb and away from buildings, trees, and shrubbery, which can hide potential threats.
When walking to your home or apartment, carry your house keys in your hand. Don’t stand in a doorway and fumble in your purse or pocket for your keys. Have them ready to use.
Always dress so that your movements are not restricted.
IF YOU ARECONFRONTED
It may seem like a good idea to tell a robber that you have no money, but this technique may backfire. It is safer to give up a few dollars. Carry a little money separate from your other funds in an accessible place.
If someone demands your property and displays or implies in any way that they have a weapon, don’t resist. Physical property isn’t worth getting injured or killed over.
If someone tries to grab you, make a scene. Scream, kick, fight . . . do what you can to get away and attract attention.
Robin Boland is a contributing columnist, South Seattle Enthusiast, and often is referred to as “little bird” by her friends who have heights over 5 ft 7
Amplifying the Authentic Narratives of South Seattle