'Schools are not significant factors of spreading the virus,' parents fight to change health guidelines

Washington state health officials are considering possible guideline changes that could help nudge many more school districts to reopen down the road.   

Nearly four months into the school year, many parents are even more passionate about getting their kids into a classroom.

“Schools are not significant factors of spreading the virus,” parent Kim Morelli said.

That statement from Morelli isn’t just an opinion, it is backed by state health experts who in early November issued a report to Governor Inslee about school transmission.

 “Long term we have to look at the impact to our children,” Morelli said.

Morelli says the impact to many kids have been devastating not just academically but mentally.

Right now, the districts are encouraged to stay in remote learning if there are more than 75 cases per 100,000 residents in two weeks. The proposed change is to raise that to 200 cases per 100,000.

That means about half of the school districts in the state could choose to reopen at least when it comes to the younger grades.

“Even if you relax the guidelines it will take the teacher’s union to open up, to adhere to the new guidelines,” Morelli said.

Morelli says as of Wednesday afternoon more than 1,000 families in the Mercer Island School District have signed a petition to reopen schools. She says a group of parents asked the teacher’s union to consider a hybrid model but Morelli says the union wouldn’t budge. Q13 News reached out to the teacher’s union on Wednesday but did not hear back.

 Meanwhile in Bellevue, parent Peter Chien understands Morelli’s concerns.

He believes the benefits of reopening outweigh the risks. As a dentist, he understands the concerns over the virus as well.

“With proper precautions in place we can do it safely, we have done it safely,” Chien said.

Even with the increase in cases, both Morelli and Chieng say there is still a path forward for hybrid learning.

"They are emotionally and mentally suffering behind the camera," Chien said.

“Reach out to those schools that are doing it and working successfully,” Morelli said.

Parents say other states are proving that it can be done.

“Instead of thinking of only the problems they should be thinking about the solutions,” Morelli said.

For parents who don’t feel comfortable coming back, Morelli says those kids could still access live lessons remotely.

The Department of Health says proposed changes are under review and they have no estimated timeline on when they could go into effect.

Even if health metrics are loosened, under current conditions it would not apply to King, Piercey, and Snohomish county schools due to high case counts.

But Morelli and Chien say they will continue to fight for changes that will make it possible for schools to reopen sooner than later.