RICHLAND, Wash. — John Dam Plaza was a sea of green Thursday afternoon as hundreds of students and parents flooded the sidewalks to show their support for the Richland School District administration.
This comes after Tuesday’s recent surprise vote by the Richland School Board caused repercussions in eastern Washington, effectively forcing the school district to issue two emergency closures to pave the way.
READ: Richland School Board considers next steps after surprise ‘mask choice’ vote shuts down district
Superintendent Dr. Shelley Redinger released a statement on Thursday reading in part:
“As a result, bringing children and staff back to schools, while knowingly violating the current mask mandate, would be illegal, jeopardize district funding and insurance coverage, and require all RSD staff members potentially risking their jobs.”
Protesters waved signs and lined the park amid supportive horns from passing cars.
KAPP-KVEW’s Ellie Nakamoto-White spoke to students who expressed frustration with the council members’ decision.
Rowan, 11, said ‘they should have made a better choice’ while Holden Herigstad, 12, called the decision ‘immature’.
“It’s just embarrassing that people aren’t mature enough to make the right decisions and just do it because they just don’t want to have to deal with what everyone else has to do,” Herigstad said.
Alison Van Billiard, a 17-year-old Richland High student, said she loves going to school, so the repeated closures due to the council were frustrating.
“Everything that is going on with the school board has interrupted our lives so extensively. I just couldn’t believe people were so selfish,” Van Billiard said. “They think of themselves. They don’t think about how it affects everyone.
Van Billiard said she wants the board members who voted yes to think about the whole school community rather than “one person.”
“It’s frustrating on so many levels because they say they’re trying to do what’s best for the kids, but they’re putting us at risk by doing that,” Van Billiard said.
Lillian Colley, 11, said she wanted to come out and support “all the people like Dr Redinger who are trying to help all of us students”.
Her friend Deanna Drake, 11, agreed, adding that while wearing a mask wasn’t her favourite, the council should have postponed their vote.
“We want to go back to school following the law, not breaking a law, because if they had waited for the law, they could say, ‘You can start wearing masks’ and we wouldn’t be in this situation. ,” Drake said.
Ava Robertshaw, 16, also called the vote “irresponsible”.
“The board is supposed to protect the students and the community. To hear that now it’s their choice to put my family in danger? It’s really unfair and really terrifying,” Robertshaw said.
Richland Education Association vice-president Krista Calvin said the organization supports Dr Redinger’s decision.
“It’s not because we want the schools to be closed. We did not ask for schools to be closed. We would love to be in school with our students and we want to get there as soon as possible, but we think it’s a mandate,” Calvin said. “A warrant has the same weight as the law in Washington State. We cannot put Dr. Redinger in a position where she has to make the decision to tell her staff to come to work and essentially go against that mandate.
Sara Watson, a parent in the Richland School District, said “the kindness in our community is gone.”
“The governor was going to lift the mask mandate anyway, so I’m not sure why the three council members had to sneak in and do what they had to do unless they thought they were going to score some points. political points. I mean it’s ridiculous,” Watson said. “People wanted our children to go back to school so badly, and now because of their actions, they are not in school.”
Watson said she had other plans for her on Thursday but with the school closings she decided to show her support for the administration and Dr Redinger in particular.
“His job is to protect and defend students and staff and at the same time to follow the directions of the school board that asks him to do something illegal,” Watson said. “They just need to be accountable to the people who elected them and that’s not what they’re doing.”
Washington’s mask mandate for most indoor environments ends March 21 + new guidelines for schools
PRIOR COVERAGE OF THE RSD MASK DECISION:
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