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Episode 23: Back to School, Sort of...

Adrian Florez


In March of this year, as the novel coronavirus started to take hold of the region, students and teachers were notified that in person school was over and remote learning would get underway. At first, everyone thought the move to online learning would be temporary, but it wasn’t.

“We got higher and higher numbers across the state, across the nation. And we continued to be questioning, well, how do we do this? And we didn't. In ten minutes we had to pack up our classrooms and get kids ready. We didn't have the time to prepare to provide students all of the pieces and resources that they needed to do this well at home,” said Shannon Ergun, the president of the Tacoma Education Association, the union that represents Tacoma’s public school teachers.

While some students thrived learning online, many struggled with isolation and a lack of structure. Parents of children with special needs are perhaps having the greatest difficulty under this new normal.

Daniela Hall is a teacher who lives in West Seattle. She’s also a mom of two kids. Her 12-year-old son has cerebral palsy, so he uses a wheelchair.

“It’s an impossible situation at home because for a kid like my son, he needs help all the time. So I’m in a position, or my husband is in a position where someone has to help him or be available all the time. In addition, I have to work,” said Hall. 

Now, with most students in Washington state returning to school remotely, what will be different?

In this episode of Transmission, we’ll dig a little deeper into the challenges families like Hall’s are facing. We’ll look at the work teachers in the Tacoma School District have been doing this summer to create more structure going forward. We’ll hear from an official at Washington State's Department of Health about when it will be safe for students and teachers to begin returning to classrooms, even when COVID cases are present in the community. Finally, we'll check in with some students at Keithley Middle School in Parkland, south of Tacoma, to hear what they think about this new school year.