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

courtesy of Launch

UPDATE, 5:12 p.m.: Adds comments from educators.

The Seattle school district has backed away from a plan to assign educators to provide child care for first responders and medical workers, after the union representing teachers and other school staff said providing that care had not been negotiated and was outside of their regular duties.

courtesy of Daniela Hall

Washington families have been trying to get up to speed on this new world of at-home schooling. This is the first week remote education is required across school districts since schools were shut down last month to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

People sort canned and other non-perishable food at Capital Area Food Bank in Washington, D.C., on March 19. nonprofit organizations are stepping up to fill the gap left by the lack of a safety net for undocumented immigrants.
Carolyn Kaster / The Associated Press

Like many people trying to subsist in Washington state right now with so much of the economy at a standstill, work has dried up for Jose. But because he’s an undocumented immigrant, he has no ability to apply for unemployment benefits and won’t receive a stimulus check from the federal government.

State Superintendent Chris Reykdal
Ted S. Warren / The Associated Press

With more than one million K-12 students out of school due to the coronavirus pandemic, districts in Washington have faced the task of adapting a school system based on in-person instruction and supports to something that can be done remotely.

The Community Day Center for Children in Seattle's Central District is one of the centers that's temporarily closed because of employee concerns about the coronavirus outbreak.
Photo courtesy of the Community Day Center for Children

Amid the coronavirus outbreak, Gov. Jay Inslee has emphasized the need for child care to enable parents in medical or first-responder professions to continue to work. He’s designated child care workers as essential to critical infrastructure.

But advocacy groups say child care centers are in crisis and the government needs to step up to help them in this difficult time. Sen. Patty Murray said she secured $3.5 billion for child care in the current version of the Senate’s coronavirus relief package, including about $58 million for Washington.   

courtesy of Ricky Haneda

The coronavirus outbreak has upended many lives, but it can be particularly difficult for those who are separated from their families.

Many university students have packed up and returned home amid the outbreak, but it’s more complicated for the thousands of international students studying in the Pacific Northwest. Some have remained here even as campuses empty out.

State Superintendent Chris Reykdal
Rachel La Corte / The Associated Press

UPDATE, 6:00 PM: Adds state superintendent's comments on graduation requirements for high school seniors.

With schools closed statewide until late April, many parents and students have wondered whether the school year will be extended into July or August.

In a webinar hosted by the League of Education Voters, State Superintendent Chris Reykdal said that’s not likely.

Seattle Children's

Seattle Children’s says it has tested 660 patients for COVID-19, with four who came back positive and are now all recovering at home. Of 166 staff members tested since Friday, four tested positive.

Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

Across the state, parents and caregivers suddenly have to figure out how to temporarily home-school their kids, after Gov. Jay Inslee ordered schools to shut down through April 24 in response to the coronavirus outbreak. Against that backdrop, some families have opted to enroll their children in the state’s public online schools.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, right, talks to the media about the decision to close schools in three counties in response to COVID-19, on Thursday, March 12, 2020, in Olympia, Wash.
Rachel La Corte / The Associated Press

Capping an extraordinary news week as the state confronts the coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Jay Inslee has ordered all K-12 public and private schools to close for at least six weeks.  It comes one day after he announced a six-week school closure for three counties in the Puget Sound region that have so far borne the brunt of the COVID-19 cases.

During his announcement, Inslee said the novel coronavirus has spread to affect 15 counties, representing roughly 75 percent of the state's population. He said state health officials have detected 568 cases so far, including 37 deaths. 

Gov. Jay Inslee speaks Wednesday at a press conference about the state's response to the coronavirus outbreak. On Thursday, the governor ordered all schools in King, Snohomish and Pierce counties to close March 16 through April 24.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

UPDATE, 5:55 p.m.: Corrects date when schools must shut down, and adds information about child care and food distribution. 

Gov. Jay Inslee announced widespread school closures Thursday, shuttering all public and private K-12 schools in 43 districts across King, Snohomish and Pierce counties for six weeks.

Inslee’s executive order says schools must shut down starting March 17. They will remain closed through April 24. The mandate will affect about 600,000 students and their families across the Puget Sound region, the epicenter of the nation’s novel coronavirus outbreak.

Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

Two of the state’s largest school districts are closing for at least two weeks due to the coronavirus outbreak, affecting more than 80,000 students.

Laura Schneider is one of the owners of Meeples Games in West Seattle.
Ashley Gross / KNKX

UPDATE, March 10: Adds information about Amazon's fund to help nearby small businesses and Gov. Jay Inslee's announcement about additional support for businesses and workers.

For the Seattle region, the novel coronavirus presents a significant public health challenge — and also a threat to people’s livelihoods.

The economic impact is already being felt. Hotels face cancellations, restaurants have empty tables, and a major economic driver for Seattle, the Emerald City Comic Con, which was set to start this week, has been postponed. Large employers including Microsoft and Amazon have asked employees to work from home, limiting commerce near their campuses.

Cherry trees bloom on the University of Washington campus, Wednesday, April 3, 2019, in Seattle.
Ted S. Warren / The Associated Press

The University of Washington, which has more than 57,000 students and more than 4,300 faculty members across its campuses and facilities, will no longer hold class in person starting Monday. This extends to all campuses through the end of the quarter on March 20, in an effort to protect people from the novel coronavirus outbreak.

photo courtesy of Ken Finlayson

UPDATE, March 6, 2:55 pm: Adds that Lake Washington Superintendent Jane Stavem has announced her resignation as she takes a new position in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

The east side of Lake Washington is where the state has seen a number of novel coronavirus cases, including deaths. Two school districts there are taking different approaches to the outbreak.

Parents in Seattle have been pushing for years for the school district to adopt universal screening to identify students for the highly capable program. Now, Seattle Public Schools said it plans to administer a 30-minute test to more than 4,400 second-graders later this month.

It’s something that’s already been adopted by other school districts, including Tacoma and Northshore.

(Rachel La Corte/ The Associated Press)

The novel coronavirus outbreak means that school district leaders are faced with making tough calls about whether to keep schools open.

District superintendents closed schools on Monday in Bothell, Renton, Kingston, Covington and Mukilteo. The Lake Washington School District, which encompasses the Kirkland hospital where the state’s coronavirus deaths have occurred, has not closed schools, in spite of an online petition that’s received thousands of signatures.

Andrew Medichini / AP Photo

More than 50 countries now have confirmed cases of the coronavirus known as COVID-19, and that’s presenting challenges for colleges and universities in Washington that have students studying abroad.

Aaron Walsh struggled to reconcile coming out as a gay man with his identity as a Catholic. He's created a website to offer support and encouragement to other young, gay Christians.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

For Aaron Walsh, the forced resignations of two gay teachers from Kennedy Catholic High School earlier this month were particularly painful.

He graduated from the school in 2005 and realized during college that he was gay. But reconciling his sexual orientation with his religious beliefs as a Catholic took three years of struggle.

Ashley Gross / KNKX

The Archbishop of Seattle has asked the president of Kennedy Catholic High School to take a leave of absence until the end of the school year, in the wake of protests over the forced resignations of two gay teachers

Ashley Gross / KNKX

Pacific Northwest organizations that work with immigrants are trying to reassure their clients who are worried they may not be able to get permanent residency because the Trump administration’s “public charge” rule has now gone into effect.

Critics say the rule amounts to a wealth test intended to bar low-income immigrants from receiving green cards. The long-standing rule has been used by officials to bar immigrants from getting permanent residency if they were deemed likely to become a public charge, meaning they would become financially dependent on the government.

Students from Catholic schools in the Seattle area, including Kennedy Catholic, Bishop Blanchet and O'Dea, protested outside the Archdiocese of Seattle.
Ashley Gross / KNKX

The Archdiocese of Seattle continues to face protests after two popular teachers at Kennedy Catholic High School in Burien resigned under pressure. Their departure in the middle of the school year came after they told school administrators that they are engaged to same-sex partners.

Joe Wolf / Flickr

Amid a school year marked by controversy over the Seattle district’s plans for its advanced learning programs, officials have announced another change that’s drawing criticism and frustration from parents.

District officials recently sent an email to parents saying Seattle Public Schools will no longer offer separate honors classes, sometimes known as Spectrum classes, in middle school.

Seattle JazzED

Five bands from the Seattle region will take part in the prestigious Essentially Ellington competition in New York in May. Washington has more finalists than any other state. Eighteen bands were selected out of 106 entries.

Four of the bands chosen have a track record of going: Garfield and Roosevelt high schools in Seattle, Mountlake Terrace High School and Mount Si High School in Snoqualmie.

For the fifth band, the Seattle JazzED Ellington Ensemble, it’s an especially sweet honor because this is the first time the group has been selected.

Rob Beezer / University of Puget Sound

University students who are blind can face difficulties getting Braille versions of specialized textbooks. Sometimes, universities pay someone to prepare a textbook, but that’s expensive and can take months.

Now, mathematicians across the country have collaborated to automate that process. One of them is Rob Beezer, a mathematics professor at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma.

Tacoma Citizens for Schools

UPDATE, Feb. 12: Adds preliminary results for some school districts, including Tacoma, Bellevue and Burlington-Edison and comments from the state superintendent. 

School districts around the Puget Sound region are taking stock of initial voting results for bond measures and levies. According to the state superintendent's office, almost 90 percent of local capital and operating levies are passing. 

The press release from the Pierce County assessor’s office was blunt: “There’s no sugar-coating it, property tax bills will be bigger this year.”

The state legislature has invested in public education in recent years to satisfy the long-running McCleary school-finance lawsuit, and that money is coming from a state property tax increase. The legislature also raised the maximum that school districts can collect in local levies.

Ashley Gross / KNKX

The Southern Poverty Law Center has documented a rise in incidents at schools involving racial slurs and discrimination against students of color in the past few years.

But students are increasingly speaking out. This week, educators and students across the country and in Washington state are taking part in the Black Lives Matter at School week of action, which grew out of a movement that began in Seattle in 2016.

Students from the Highline and Renton school districts shared their stories and concerns as students of color at an equity conference in SeaTac hosted by the Rainier Educators of Color Network. The group includes teachers from the Highline, Renton and Kent school districts.

Jack Miller / Miller Photo 2019

When teachers at Garfield High School announced in early 2013 that they refused to administer the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) standardized test, Seattle school officials threatened to suspend them for 10 days without pay.

Marko Liias, a Democratic state senator whose district includes parts of Edmonds, Everett and Lynnwood, is the lead sponsor of a bill to create a state-run loan program for undocumented students.
Ted S. Warren / The Associated Press

A bill under consideration in the Legislature would open another avenue for financial aid for immigrant students in Washington who lack legal status.