Strong schools mean a strong community

Everyone on Vashon needs to remain focused on the basic facts of the virus and how it transmitted.

  • Saturday, August 29, 2020 11:19am
  • Opinion

King County residents came so close to flattening the curve and stomping it out like a campfire, only to watch the number of new cases climb again in July and early August.

Other parts of the state are now enjoying their own success in defeating this virus, or at least have succeeded in temporarily stemming the rate of infection in their counties. But as you’ll see in this week’s Emergency Operations Center report on page 8, we have little reason to celebrate here. We’re not in the clear yet.

It’s hard to imagine that this pandemic only fully set in six months ago. Life has dramatically changed in such a short amount of time. Nowhere else is this change more evident than in the nation’s schools, many of which were forced to close after toying with in-person or hybrid instruction gave way to emerging COVID-19 cases.

This country will not go back to normal until school is back to normal. Until that happens, at least in Washington state and on Vashon, we can hope that our school administrators will make a lasting commitment to all of the students whose lives have been disrupted by a pandemic — but also, and more significantly, to the students who will continue to struggle if the system that proceeded the pandemic is fully restored, and empty platitudes repeated, once the pandemic is over.

To be fair, the pressures within our schools and on administrators and faculty at this moment are massive, if they were not so already. But strong schools — an institution that so many rely on for so much — means strong communities. Whenever this community supports the children and students who live and study here, great things happen.

Take a major grant donated anonymously to the Vashon Schools Foundation in June for use by the district in strengthening its racial equity initiatives. There’s also Vashon Food Bank’s Picnics to Go Program, managed by district Food Service Director Lisa Cyra. It ended last week after serving scores of free meals daily from outside Vashon High School between June and August of this year, in addition to making deliveries across the island for those unable to travel or afraid of exposing themselves to the virus.

(Going forward, while the district will only be able to offer food to enrolled students this fall, the food bank located at Sunrise Ridge is open to all who are seeking nutritious food to eat.)

Other pressures on those serving the island’s children have been amplified by the ongoing pandemic and threaten to go unnoticed.

Vashon Youth and Family Services’ Dalinda Vivero told The Beachcomber recently that the nonprofit’s Chautauqua-based before and after school and summer enrichment program, Vashon Kids, has risen to the challenge to provide an all-outdoor child care service that was at once critical to the families of essential workers months ago and remains deeply important to the families who send their children now.

But the community-supported program is low on staff, who are working especially hard to ensure health and safety while doing the most they can for the children in their full-time care — a marked shift from their previous before-and-after school model. There is no substitute list in case someone calls out, and child care both on Vashon as well as nationwide remains exceedingly in high demand — far more than can be served given current restrictions and staffing constraints.

The elementary school campus has served the program well, Vivero said, allowing the children to spread out and take part in socially-distanced activities such as bike riding and hiking. Her next challenges? Find a way to facilitate online learning for continued full-day child care as the fall approaches; figure out what, if any, learning supports for students will be available to those who need them; and keep everyone healthy through both the current pandemic and upcoming flu season. It’s a tall order. But Vivero said the kids in her care have adapted.

“It’s been interesting to see how well adjusted the kids are to change,” she said. “I was really surprised… They’re just in it now, and they know there’s a virus and that’s why we’re keeping safe,” she said.

We hope parents will keep communicating to their kids how important it is to stay masked and distanced. And everyone on Vashon needs to remain focused on the basic facts of the virus and how it transmitted. The reason our pubic schools are closed is because it is unsafe to gather children together in large numbers.

And now, child care workers are being asked to supervise gatherings of children that would well prove dangerous come winter, when more activities head inside. Children can and do get the virus and also, spread it. An outbreak at a child care center or another “instead of school” program is something we never want to have to report in The Beachcomber.

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