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Bellevue parents rally to reopen schools as COVID-19 cases skyrocket

Parents held a rally just a day after the governor and state health officials raised concerns about the rising COVID-19 case counts.

BELLEVUE, Wash. — A coronavirus cases hit an all-time high in Washington parents and students gathered in Bellevue for the "School Is Essential Rally."

“Our kids desperately need to be back in school. The mental health crisis that’s coming, the inequity between children that can afford private tutoring versus not. All of those problems are going to hit our entire state,” said parent Moya Skillman.

The rally took place just a day after the governor and state health officials raised concern about the rising case counts and asked people to stop gatherings as the holidays approach.

“Yes, the cases are going to spike up, the positive rate is going spike up, but what the data is telling us is that schools are not super spreaders, that there is a way to open safely,” Skillman said. “Kids deserve an education. It’s literally in our state’s constitution, that every child should have an education. The fact that the public-school families just completely being shut out is creating a huge divide.”

Inequity is their big focus, and the Washington State Education Association agrees inequity is a problem facing students.

RELATED: 'Stop the gatherings': Washington health officials warn about COVID-19 surge over Thanksgiving

“We know the inequities with remote learning that are happening too, not everyone has the bandwidth, not everyone has device access, not everyone is capable of being able to navigate on devices and in the same way and the quality that we do when we’re in person,” said Uti Hawkins, the Vice President of Seattle Education Association, part of the Washington Education Association.

But Hawkins added that while they’re working toward reopening, with current case counts, the state is not ready.

“Working to have school buildings set up with testing and strong contact tracing is the focus we need to get back into school. We must be safe and prepared to protect people’s lives,” said Hawkins, “We’re getting there, step by step, our goal is to make sure that once we open and find those connections we don’t have to close back down again. That’s essential. We want this to be a long-term plan that’s sustainable." 

Parents at the "School is Essential Rally" are in support of protective measures to get kids back in classrooms sooner.

“We need to start somewhere. So yes, masks social distancing, 50% of the population should go at one time, families that have concerns or have conditions where they have to be very careful, they can stay home and continue remote learning. There’s all types of options. Everyone should be working together to safely open schools,” Skillman said.