Ashley Gross | KNKX

Ashley Gross

Youth and Education Reporter

In July 2017, Ashley Gross became KNKX's youth and education reporter after years of covering the business and labor beat.  She joined the station in May 2012 and previously worked five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.

She studied history at Brown University and earned a master's in international affairs at Columbia University. She grew up in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She lives in West Seattle with her husband and two sons.

One of Ashley's most memorable moments in radio happened several years ago in Northwest Alaska: "I was visiting an alcohol and drug rehab program in the tiny village of Selawik. It helps Alaska Natives recover by helping them get back in touch with their subsistence lifestyle. It was spring, which meant the river was still frozen - barely. We went out on snowmachines to go ice-fishing, but late in the day, as we headed back, the river had melted to the consistency of a Slurpee. It was a harrowing ride and a good lesson in trust - I rode with my eyes closed, clinging for dear life to the woman driving. A week later, three people drowned trying to ride a snowmachine over that river, and that's when I realized just how dangerous life in rural Alaska can be."

Ways to Connect

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson
Elaine Thompson / The Associated Press (file)

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson said the Trump administration’s proposed rule for international students “harms nearly every Washington state higher education institution” and he’s suing to block it.

The rule would revoke visas for international students who attend U.S. universities or colleges and only enroll in online classes.

Highline Superintendent Susan Enfield (file photo)
Ted S. Warren / The Associated Press

School districts in Washington state are trying to figure out how to safely bring students back to school for at least some in-person instruction in the fall, given the risks of the coronavirus pandemic and public health requirements.

At the same time, they face pressure all the way from the White House. President Donald Trump has threatened to withhold federal funds from districts that do not bring all students back for full-time, in-person instruction.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

The Interfraternity Council at the University of Washington said as of Monday, 146 people living in fraternities have tested positive for COVID-19.

The university conducts its own testing and verification of cases and said “at least 128 fraternity house residents” had tested positive, and another nine UW students who were close contacts of the residents had tested positive.

The Seattle school district is starting remote summer school this week and six times as many students are taking part compared with prior years. Even as the focus shifts to what school will look like in the fall, families are still processing the unprecedented school year that just ended and what it meant to abruptly shift to online schooling.

courtesy of Seattle Housing Authority

Teens and young adults who live in Seattle Housing Authority communities have built an online social hub for their peers. It’s meant to help young people navigate life in the pandemic.

Roosevelt High School in Seattle
Ashley Gross / KNKX

Seattle Public Schools, the state’s largest school district, said the model that makes the most sense for the fall is a hybrid of in-person and remote learning given public health requirements to control the coronavirus pandemic.

But that will place a burden on families that have already spent months with children at home due to school closures. 

Parker Miles Blohm

School districts are trying to figure out how to safely bring students back into schools in the fall, and one big question mark is what instruction will look like for instrumental music and choir.

Art Crate Field in Spanaway, where high schools in the Bethel School District share athletic fields for sports, including track.
Markelle E.G. Photography

For the second time in less than a month, a coach in the Bethel School District in Pierce County is out of a job after posting inflammatory messages on social media.

Graduates of Nathan Hale High School and other schools wear caps and gowns as they take part in a Black Lives Matter March, march, Monday, June 15, 2020, in Seattle.
Ted S. Warren / The Associated Press

Across the region, students, teachers and community members have been pushing for school districts to remove police officers from schools.

In Seattle, the school board has now voted to indefinitely suspend its arrangement with the city’s police department. That program had placed five officers in Seattle schools that have large percentages of students of color.

Pierce College is one of the publicly funded community and technical colleges bracing for a drop in state funding.
Courtesy of Pierce College

Community and technical colleges are bracing for big budget cuts as Washington state faces billions in lost tax revenue.

Sumeya Block, left, and Anabel Lee, right, are friends who teamed up to create a podcast about life in Seattle during the pandemic.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

Life has shifted in dramatic ways this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Two teens in Seattle — aware that they’re experiencing history in the making — decided to document those changes and produced a podcast about COVID-19 life from the high school point of view.

Ivania Castillo from Prince William County, Va., holds a banner to show her support for dreamer Miriam from California, as she joins DACA recipients celebrating in front of the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday, after justices upheld the program.
Manuel Balce Ceneta / The Associated Press

More than 16,000 undocumented immigrants in Washington state are authorized to work here through DACA, or the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program. The Obama-era protection allowed immigrants to retain their authorization to work, free from the fear of deportation.  

And Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the program in a 5-4 decision, prompting joy and relief from many who benefit from it.

A very unusual school year is coming to a close and now the focus is shifting to what school will look like in the fall, given the pandemic. The Seattle school district is planning to let families know by the end of this week what the model will likely be.

Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

Bitaniya Giday, 17, is the new Seattle Youth Poet Laureate for 2020-21, Seattle Arts & Lectures has announced.

The young poet activist already is familiar to KNKX listeners after recently sharing her thoughts about police brutality and racism for our youth voices project, Take the Mic.

Ashley Gross / KNKX

The protests over police killings of Black people have broadened into calls to dismantle systemic racism — including in schools.

In Tacoma, a Black Youth Matters march on Saturday drew hundreds of people of all ages and races. One woman held a sign that said “No Cops in Schools.” Some children wore t-shirts that said “I can’t breathe” in honor of George Floyd, who was killed by a Minneapolis police officer who kneeled on his neck for almost nine minutes.

Roosevelt High School in Seattle
Ashley Gross / KNKX

For many families, it will come as a relief to hear that the state superintendent said most schools should reopen in person in the fall.

The abrupt shift to distance learning this spring was difficult for many students and families to manage. State Superintendent Chris Reykdal said it also had a disproportionate impact on students who lacked technology or internet.

Gabriel Spitzer / KNKX

UPDATE, 8 p.m.: Adds comments from Seattle Superintendent Denise Juneau. 

With nationwide protests over police brutality, community members and some educators in the Puget Sound region are calling for school districts to remove law enforcement officers from schools. School leaders in Minneapolis and Portland already have moved to take that step, and the superintendent of Seattle Public Schools said it's time to re-evaluate an agreement that placed officers in schools.

Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

Aminata Laminatu Kamara has seen all this before: the lockdown, school closures, people falling ill with a deadly contagious disease. And she’s only 20 years old.

The collective trauma we’re all experiencing right now is something she lived through as a teenager in Sierra Leone. The West African country struggled with a terrifying outbreak of the Ebola virus for almost two years. Now, she lives in Seattle.

Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

So many deaths of Black people at the hands of police in the U.S.

Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Philando Castile, Breonna Taylor — heartbreakingly, that's just a subset of names.

But now, the killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis, captured on video as he said repeatedly that he couldn’t breathe while a kneeling police officer pinned him to the ground, has sparked a new level of outrage that’s propelled people across the country to take to the streets.

For Black teens in Washington state, George Floyd’s death in police custody was sadly familiar.

A demonstrator holds up a sign in front of police and National Guard members in Seattle on June 2, 2020 during a protest over the death of George Floyd.
Shauna Sowersby / KNKX

After five days of protest against police brutality and racism, activists continue marching the streets of Seattle and Tacoma. 

In Seattle, hundreds of people flooded the streets of Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood on Tuesday.

Rainier View Elementary PTSA

In normal times, parent teacher student associations fundraise to pay for things like field trips, school supplies, or sometimes, extra school staff. But these are not normal times.

Now with so many people out of work, some of these parent groups have shifted into trying to help families cover basic needs, including rent or bills.

Wikimedia Commons

Community groups and the Tacoma school district have been trying in recent years to help more high school students pursue college degrees. But now there’s concern that students will push off college plans because of the pandemic.

So three nonprofit groups and Tacoma Public Schools have worked together to survey high school seniors to connect and find out their needs.  

Ashley Gross / KNKX

In recent years, students experiencing homelessness or housing instability in Washington have numbered in the tens of thousands. A new survey shows that many of those students are struggling with basic needs amid the pandemic.

Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

February was a high point for Olawumi Olaniyan. The 12-year-old seventh grader from Heatherwood Middle School in Mill Creek had traveled with her recreational cheerleading team, the Bruins Elite, to Anaheim, California, for nationals. The girls accomplished what they’d always dreamed of — winning first place.

Then came the coronavirus pandemic, bringing an abrupt close to her cheerleading’s parade season, just as it truncated seasons for so many other young athletes. But Olawumi has found a way to redirect her cheerleading energy.

Shorecrest High School drama students recorded themselves singing their parts to the song "One Day More" from "Les Misérables" and one student edited it into a composite video for YouTube.
Screenshot of "One Day More"

The coronavirus may have shut down schools, but it hasn’t put a stop to student creativity.

School concerts and plays have been canceled, but there’s been a burst of ingenuity online, especially from musically skilled students.

Drama students at Shorecrest High School in Shoreline were in the midst of rehearsing the musical "Les Misérables" when they got word that school was closing, scuttling the performance they all had been looking forward to.

Snohomish County's health officer says it's possible that the coronavirus arrived in Washington state earlier than previously thought.

Rachel La Corte / The Associated Press

The statewide school closure to slow the spread of the coronavirus has brought tremendous upheaval to families. Parents are trying to help their children keep up with assignments from home, while many of them juggle work responsibilities or cope with financial stresses stemming from unemployment.

Added to that is a continued lack of internet access for many families that the state and school districts are trying to address — even now, two months after schools were ordered to shut down.

In this Friday, April 17, 2020, photo, a news story about the University of Washington Medicine department plays on a resident's television as a member of a team from UW Medicine arrives to take a nose swab sample.
Ted S. Warren / The Associated Press

UPDATE, 3:00 pm: Adds information about how Swedish, a Seattle-area hospital network, is cutting costs.  

The economic crisis that's resulted from measures to control the coronavirus is now hitting hospitals.

UW Medicine, which operates Harborview Medical Center, UW Medical Center, Valley Medical Center as well as clinics and the UW School of Medicine, said in a press release that COVID-19 has created an “unprecedented financial challenge” for health systems and that it's anticipating losses of more than $500 million by the end of the summer.

More than 800,000 people in Washington have filed for unemployment benefits during the pandemic.

There also have been some fraudulent claims submitted. Some school district employees, including in the Seattle, Tacoma and Bellevue districts, have discovered that fraudulent claims were filed in their names.