The local chapters of the NAACP and League of United Latin American Citizens have joined those advocating for school to remain online to start the fall semester.
Both organizations last week signed on to a letter from the equity council for Washington Education Association Riverside to the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction.
“I just want us to be more careful than we were about reopening our country,” NAACP Vancouver President Bridgette Fahnbulleh said. “I don’t want to see children die. I don’t.”
WEA Riverside, whose executive council also signed on to the letter, is the regional committee for the influential teacher’s union, comprising of more than 4,600 educators in 15 Southwest Washington school districts.
The letter calls on the state to substantially expand social services, including the creation of a basic income, while implementing widespread testing and mask requirements before schools can safely reopen. The WEA Riverside executive council, which represents more than 4,600 educators in 15 Southwest Washington school districts, also signed onto the letter.
“The reality is, thousands of Washington students are learning in classrooms with no windows, broken HVAC systems, and hazardous air quality conditions,” the letter reads. “Unemployment benefits will end for thousands of Washington families by July 31st, putting undue pressure on families to send their students back to school where safety is secondary to income.”
Leaders from LULAC and the NAACP acknowledge the difficulties students historically underserved by the public school system face in virtual learning. However, they also point to public health data that suggests communities of color are hardest hit by the coronavirus.
LULAC Southwest Washington President Ed Hamilton Rosales pointed to public health data suggesting Hispanic and Latino communities are particularly at risk, According to data released by Clark County Public Health on July 6, Hispanic and Latino people represent 25 percent of the county’s cases, while making up only 10.2 percent of the county’s population.
Hamilton Rosales added that Hispanic and Latino children who live with extended their extended family run the risk of bringing the virus home to older relatives. While students, particularly those learning English, benefit from being in the classroom, the risks are too high, he said.
“They do better in class, they’re more exposed in class,” he said. “Because of the way everything is sussed out, the better choice is for them to stay home.
Fahnbulleh knows all too well the hurt of losing someone to the coronavirus. Her aunt died of the disease early on in the pandemic.
“Two weeks, later she’s dead,” she said. “We couldn’t go to her. We couldn’t go to the funeral. This is real. People are really dying.”
“Personalize this,” Fahnbulleh said. “This is real. We have to think about our children. Some kids will die. Whose kids. Should it be yours? Or your neighbors? Whose lives are we willing to sacrifice?