Several dozen Hermiston residents held a rally for students in front of the high school on Saturday – one year since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and the end of in-person instruction.
“We want to send a message that our kids need five full days of in-person school,” said Sally Hansell. “We have failed our kids.”
“This has been a challenge for everyone,” said Jake Bacon, a father of three and principal of Highland Hills Elementary School. “We need our kids in school.”
Saturday’s rally in Hermiston was in conjunction with similar rallies around the state calling for the Oregon Health Authority to relax the metrics so students can return to school sooner.
Lori Spencer, another parent who spent part of her Saturday rallying with other concerned parents, said her son hasn’t stepped one foot inside the high school his entire senior year.
Like many districts around the state, the Hermiston School District is using a hybrid model in which students – if they choose – spend a few hours a week in school, and the rest learning from home. Many parents say it just isn’t working, that distance learning has failed and their children simply are not getting the depth of instruction they need through online learning.
Britney Wood has three kids at home. She said her oldest child is two years being in reading.
“She wasn’t when the pandemic started,” she said.
Amy Weiseler said her kids are lucky in that she is a former school teacher and is better equipped than most parents to provide support for her children. But, she said, the pandemic has taken a toll.
“My oldest has lost motivation,” she said. “She doesn’t want to get out of bed in the morning.”
Weiseler and others are also frustrated by the fact that while case numbers in Hermiston and around the state are continuing to decline, the guidelines – including the need to stay six feet apart – have not been relaxed.
She and others worry what the long-term ramifications will be for this generation of students.
“The state needs to bring our kids back to school,” she said.