At least the sun was shining Tuesday morning in Spokane.
That was only fair considering the otherwise cloudy forecast for young families following Gov. Jay Inslee’s decision Monday to close all schools in the state through the end of the academic year.
Moms, dads and kids greeted the news with emotions ranging from stoic resignation to overwhelming despair.
“Emotionally, this is a little hard to take,” said Monica Skimming, a mother of three school-age children, as she drove by for some bags of food at Lincoln Heights Elementary School.
Then she began to cry.
“It’s hard to help them with their homework because I learned it differently,” said Skimming, whose kids attend nearby Franklin Elementary. “Now I’m having to do it all over again, and it’s hard.”
That was the prevailing emotion for stressed-out parents, who understand the need for caution in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, yet can’t shed their frustration.
Aloud or silently, they all had the same question: When will it end?
“I just hope they get to go back to school in the fall, because I worry about their education,” Skimming said.
Kids felt the same way after Inslee’s decision.
“I was really disappointed because I really miss my teachers,” said Brayden Dunn, a seventh-grader at Chase Middle School who walked to Lincoln Heights with his parents and two younger sisters.
One of them, fourth-grader Abigail, said she missed everything at Lincoln Heights, especially math.
“That’s because in school, we usually have partners in math,” Abigail Dunn said.
Dunn has it better than most; her mother Rachel is an elementary music teacher in Medical Lake.
Now Rachel Dunn is taking multitasking to a new level, homeschooling her children while also teaching lessons on YouTube and Zoom “so I at least get to see my students.”
“As a teacher, the toughest thing is trying to make sure they’re doing their schoolwork, and on top of that trying to teach my own kids,” Dunn said.
But like other parents, Dunn and her husband Dave, a custodian at Central Valley High School, agree with Inslee’s decision.
“The safety of the kids is the most important thing,” Rachel said.
Dave Dunn still held out some hope for a return.
“Even if we had just one more day it would be worth it,” he said.
While most families walked or drove to the Lincoln Heights drive-thru, Laci Branden arrived by bike and towing her daughter Violet’s two-wheeler.
“We’re trying to get outside every day,” said Branden, a clinical nurse who said she is “100 percent in agreement” with the decision to close schools.
“I do whatever the doctors and the scientists tell me to do,” Branden said. “It’s very rough and scary out there.”
Branden said Violet is making do with distance learning.
“We’ve utilized a bunch of online materials, but we’re not equipped to be homeschoolers,” she said.
At that point, Violet, a first-grader at Franklin, interjected that she “really likes ABC Mouse,” a digital education program.
Parents are trying to adjust to the new routine.
“We’ve put a desk in the dining room so she can study,” said Gerald Bertram as he and his third-grade daughter Athena walked home from her school.
“She’s bored because she can’t be with her friends,” Bertram said. “But she’s going to hang in there.”
A few children came alone to pick up their food bags. All missed their school and the people within.
Next to the playground – where the equipment is taped off because of COVID-19 – a sixth-grader and his two younger sisters were met by a staffer bearing bags of food.
“What are we missing about school? Just about everything,” the boy said.
It was the same for Amy Warren and her son Victor, a sixth-grader at Hamblen Elementary. She worries about the loss of sixth-grade graduation, and for eighth-graders and seniors who might miss out on rites of passage of graduation.
Warren agrees with the decision – “everyone else is in the same boat,” she said – but worries about her son’s education.
So does Victor.
“I miss having a lot of friends,” he said. “We stay in touch with video chats, but it’s not the same thing. It’s the same with my teachers – they’re all my favorites.”
“This is hard to take,” Victor said.
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