She’s halfway through her senior year at Central Valley High School, but Kaitlyn Hartshorn hasn’t seen the inside of a classroom since March.
Hartshorn missed the track season last spring and likely will lose this one too, plus a chance to participate in student government. Her younger sister Brooklyn, a freshman, struggles with distance learning.
“It’s really important to get back in class,” Brooklyn said.
For the Hartshorn sisters, their mother Lori and about three dozen others, the cause was important enough to stand on the Sullivan Road sidewalk in near-freezing temperatures, wave signs and chant: “We want more.”
Officially, it was 38 degrees, even colder from the wind chill of passing cars. Many of them honked, warming spirits if not bodies.
“I am kind of cold,” Kaitlyn Hartshorn said. “But we need to get back into class.”
School officials, however, say they need to phase in-person learning back in slowly in order to keep people safe amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
After an hour standing outside the high school, they drove 4 miles to the Central Valley School District office and chanted even louder.
The “March for More,” they called it: a demand for more hours in the classroom, or certainly more than the Central Valley School District has allowed for secondary students in its phased return to classrooms during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Under a plan finalized last week, the CVSD board of directors approved a proposal – effective Feb. 1 – that would divide seventh- through 12th-graders into four cohorts for each grade.
Students will have the option of staying in a virtual environment or attending school in person one day a week for four hours.
COVID metrics permitting, the second phase will begin on March 1 with students transitioning to an A/B schedule and two days of in-person learning every week.
That isn’t enough, Lori Hartshorn said.
“I’m out here because I think kids should be back at school,” Hartshorn said. “And our tax dollars are paying for that.”
Many of the protesters carried signs with pointed messages: “Phase 2 Now,” “Be Like Mead” and, most poignantly, a small one that read, “We are not OK.”
Jennifer Lamoreaux, a mother of three secondary students and one of the group’s organizers, said her children are struggling with distance learning.
“It breaks my heart to see their discouragement, that they’ve been given up on by the district and told that it’s not important for them to be in school,” Lamoreaux said.
Like other parents, Lamoreaux said she felt that the district was “trying to appease us by giving us a tiny fraction of what we wanted.”
And like others, she noted that the nearby Mead School District has operated with full in-person learning for elementary students and two days a week at the secondary level.
“I don’t understand why we can’t do that,” Lamoreaux said.
Like many Spokane Public Schools and most districts on the state’s West Side , Central Valley began the year with distance learning only. Since late fall, it has been returning elementary students and working toward doing the same at the upper grades.
Responding to the protesters, Superintendent Ben Small said, “We understand the concerns that are being raised today by parents asking us to open schools faster.
“We are also hearing from parents who are concerned we are opening schools too fast.
“The phasing plan is key to ensuring the protocols, safety measures, contact tracing and all the other processes will work well as the numbers of students in buildings increases.”
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