Some families in Issaquah School District worried about sending kids back to classrooms

As some parents across Washington said they are eager to get their kids back into some form of classroom setting, others said they worry it may be too soon.

On Tuesday, Issaquah School District welcomed back middle school students with special needs and transition students ages 18 to 21.  About 200 students returned back to a classroom to begin the district’s phased reopening plan.

One family said they are concerned about returning to class because the district reopened without providing a detailed plan of what in-person learning will look like.

“It’s scary to think about,” said Marcie Chung, a mother of two.

Chung said her son, six-year-old Owen Chung, has seen success in remote learning. She attributes his growth in education to a well-structured schedule.

“They’ve been doing curriculum right from the get-go. His reading is getting better, his math skills are getting better. They’re doing real learning online,” said Chung.

“I want to keep doing remote learning,” said Owen. “I feel safer and I also don’t want to clean my desk every hour.”

Chung said she worries her first grader will lose structure if Issaquah School District returns to the classroom too soon.

“I don’t think it’s safe—not without a plan,” said Chung.

Superintendent Ron Thiele confirmed the district will be sending an update to the ISD community with a detailed plan for in-person learning by the evening of September 29th. The plan is expected to include information about coronavirus safety protocols, classrooms, buses, transportation, and potential schedules for grades K-12.

Earlier in September, Thiele published a letter to the district’s website. It said the goal is to start, “providing some form of in-person learning for kindergarten and first-grade students no later than October 15.”

While Owen was in his virtual class, Chung said she believes the district is not providing enough information to ease her mind sending her son back to school.

“I am so nervous about it. They have given us no information on what a hybrid schedule even looks like. We don’t know about the bus situation, is there going to be social distancing on the bus, are they going to require masks on the bus? What happens when our child gets to school? We don’t know what the safety protocols are,” said Chung.

Thiele said the district continues having ongoing conversations with labor unions about returning to class in a safe and efficient manner. He said he was ecstatic to bring back about 200 students to in-person instruction Tuesday, and his proud of staff for their efforts in making the return possible. The district plans for preschool students in the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program to return to class on September 30th.

The superintendent’s letter also said the district plans to bring back second through fifth-grade students in phases with three weeks in between their return. A date has not been set for middle and high school students, but the plan is to start them with some form of hybrid learning model.

Thiele’s letter mentioned full remote learning will remain an option. However, students could be assigned a new teacher, as those online teachers transition to in-person instruction.

“I didn’t want them to change my teacher because it’s my first-first grade teacher and also because I also wanted to stay with her because I’m used to her,” said Owen.

“He said, ‘I don’t like this. What can I do to make sure I stay with my teacher?’ And I said, well I’ve been writing to the school board and if it will make you feel better you can do one too. So, he wrote his very first email ever and it was to the school board,” said Chung.

Though Owen said he misses social interactions at school, for now he likes recess with his mom and his teacher online. Chung said she hopes whenever kids do go back to class, there is a safe plan in place.

“I don’t think anyone thought it was going to be this soon in the school year. We’ve just gotten going. This is, I think, week four of school and it seems insane to change when we’ve already got a rhythm going,” said Chung.

Details about the in-person learning plan are available on the district's website.