by Ari Robin McKenna
When Seattle Public Schools’ (SPS) mass COVID-19 screening flagged seven of their coworkers last Monday, Kimball Elementary School staff knew they were in for a week. A tight-knit group who has a strong relationship with their Parents, Teachers, and Students Association (PTSA), Kimball’s staff braced themselves.
As the week progressed, Kimball — in Southeast Seattle and serving 75% students of color — was without one Instructional Assistant (IA) after another, as well as multiple teachers and an administrator. By the end of the week, Kimball was short six IAs. School staffs across Seattle have been worn down by factors including a national substitute teacher shortage, the challenges teaching students returning to in-person school after a such long break, and unrealistic pressure to “catch up.” Yet while the entire system is in crisis, throughout last week, Kimball staff approached its actual breaking point.
Kimball Music Teacher and Seattle Education Association (SEA) Union Rep KT Raschko, described staffs’ still-determined ethos in the hallways of the Van Asselt building, where Kimball is housed while its new building is constructed:
Continue reading Why School Was Cancelled at Kimball Elementary for the Past Three Days
by Ari Robin McKenna
When students at Puget Sound Elementary (PSE) in Tukwila returned to in-person learning at the end of August, the neighborhood surrounding the office-building-turned-elementary-school had one of the highest positive COVID-19 case rates in King County — according to the County’s COVID-19 dashboard at the time. Meanwhile, parents say in-person learning at almost every grade level was over-enrolled, especially 2nd and 3rd grades, which had class sizes of 37, 37, and 39 and 36, 38, and 37, respectively. According to concerned parents who spoke to the Emerald, because this school lacked a cafeteria, because the school’s stated educational model involved having two adults per classroom, and perhaps because of a loose interpretation of State guidance, in at least a couple of cases, for over a month, 40 people gathered their lunches, unmasked, and ate together inside classrooms.
Serving mostly students of color — many from immigrant and refugee households — PSE is one of a fast-growing group of charter schools setting up in southwest King County and Tacoma called Impact Public Schools (IPS). The first of four charter schools stamped for approval by the Washington State Charter School Commission in 2017, PSE was joined in 2019 by Salish Sea Elementary, in Seattle’s Othello neighborhood, and in 2020 by Commencement Bay Elementary in Tacoma. Next school year an already approved Black River Elementary will be opening in Renton. This growing portfolio of non-profit schools is presided over by CEO Jen Wickens, co-founder of IPS.
Continue reading Parents at Charter School Cry Foul as Students Eat Inside Doubled-Up Classrooms