EDMONDS, Wash. – On September 14, the first Edmonds school board meeting of the 2021-2022 school year took place over Zoom amidst rising COVID cases in the county. The meeting predominantly focused on the district’s commitment to safe reopening measures. Meetings will continue to take place over Zoom for the duration of the year.

The meeting began with the Indigenous land acknowledgment, which was read aloud verbatim over Zoom by Superintendent Dr. George Balderas.

Following the Pledge of Allegiance, the superintendent issued the Oath of Office to the board’s five student advisors. These students applied for the position and will be attending school board meetings regularly to represent the students of their respective schools and provide student insight. The student advisors sworn in this year are as follows:

  • Daniel Kim, Edmonds-Woodway HS
  • Isabel Vergara-Ramos, Edmonds-Woodway HS
  • Roshni Gill, Edmonds-Woodway HS
  • Lia Addisu, Lynnwood HS
  • Ritika Khanal, Mountlake Terrace HS

The full September 14 school board meeting is available online through this link: https://edmondssd.new.swagit.com/videos/139584.

The Superintendent’s report

The bulk of the presentation revolved around the school district’s Covid-19 policies, which, according to Balderas, derive directly from the Snohomish Department of Health.

He encouraged parents who have voiced concerns about their children’s academic achievements to show grace toward schools and educators this school year, as students have “not been in school for over 20 months.”

Balderas also explained the precautions he believes parents and students should be taking this school year, reiterating emphatically, “Mask up and vax up. We need to get shots in arms . . . and we need to wear our masks . . . because we want to keep kids in school.”

Public comments

All public speakers were given three minutes to speak with a timer counting down the seconds as they spoke.

Two paraeducators voiced their disappointment in the district for compensating certified educators but not paraeducators, who they said were working just as hard to transition students to remote learning last school year.

Three parents spoke during public comments, one requesting stricter COVID safety measures, two discussing issues with existing measures.

A mother of an elementary student voiced concerns about the third-grade class eating lunch indoors without masks and suggested holding outdoor lunches exclusively.

Another parent voiced concern that students are being treated unequally based upon vaccination status through school policies which are “discriminatory, as they negatively impact a subset of students and their educational opportunities,” the woman said. She added that the school district’s policies were coercive, rewarding vaccinated students with educational opportunities while penalizing unvaccinated students.

A father voiced similar concerns after his son was harassed after a teacher asked vaccinated students to raise their hands in class. His son, who is unvaccinated, was subsequently bullied because of his vaccination status. Despite discussing the issue with the school’s principal Allison Larson who acknowledged this as a violation of federal law, a few days later another teacher asked the same question to students.

District-wide COVID safety measures

The Edmonds school board also discussed its commitment to contact tracing. Any student who has had close contact and who presents symptoms of COVID must immediately isolate in the containment room and will be offered a shallow nose test with the student and parents’ consent. Students who did not have close contact but display symptoms will be required to show a negative COVID test and must be fever-free and symptom-free for 24 hours before returning to school.

Students who refuse to take a COVID test will be treated as though they received a positive test result. These policies apply regardless of vaccination status, but for unvaccinated students, the isolation period extends to 14 days from exposure.

Olivia Thiessen

Olivia graduated with her master’s in Curriculum and Instruction in English in 2020. While completing her degree, Olivia worked as a college grammar and composition teacher and wrote for various magazines and websites. She spent the last year writing secondary English and history textbooks but has recently shifted gears to focus on writing for the media. She believes journalism is the greatest tool within a free society and is passionate about bringing truth to local citizens.

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