Why we pulled our children out of public school

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Today is the first day of school!

My wife and I are both a product of public schools. We wanted the same for our children, and we gave it our best shot. However, we’ve reached our limit and made the decision to pull our children out of public schools and enroll them in private school for in-person instruction.

I’m a blessed father of 3. My oldest is going into 2nd grade, and my middle child is entering kindergarten. I only want the best for them.

And, only my wife and I know what’s best for them. Our oldest needs deep, 1:1 friendships. Our kindergartner needs to be on the move at all times. That’s just them.

We live in Bellevue, Washington, and we were relieved when Bellevue School District announced that they were pursuing in-person classes for the fall. They issued a survey to all incoming parents, asking what classroom setting they would prefer: in-person, hybrid, or 100% remote. 70% of parents selected a form of in-person instruction. The initial Bellevue plan was fantastic – they said they’d meet each family’s need. If you wanted in-person instruction, you got it. If you want remote, you could have that too.

So you can imagine my frustration when the public school system unilaterally announced 100% remote learning for the entire school district several days after the survey was conducted, despite 70% of parents preferring in-person instruction. Despite the CDC and American Association of Pediatrics recommending opening schools.

It became clear to me that the teachers’ unions, school board, and superintendent had very different motivations than parents. There is a big difference between what is in the best interest of children and what was best for special interests, including teachers’ unions and re-election of school board members.

And that’s where everything broke down. Bellevue announced a remote start, yet King County was in Phase 2 of emerging from the COVID-19 lockdown, which raised several questions:

  • Why are tattoo parlors, marijuana stores, bowling alleys, and liquor stores open, yet schools are closed?
  • Why is the person stocking grocery shelves considered an essential worker, but elementary school teachers are non-essential?
  • Why is it ok for crowds to fill the streets (incl. many teachers) to participate in mostly peaceful mass protests, but teachers can’t be in the classroom?

You can’t have it both ways. Either it is safe or unsafe. It’s quite possible that everything should be closed: bowling alleys, marijuana shops, liquor stores, tattoo parlors, etc. should all be closed, including schools. Or, it’s safe, and we should prioritize getting kids back into school, like my kindergartner. There is a massive cognitive dissonance when you can play pickup basketball at a local gym, without a mask, yet Governor Inslee strongly recommends schools remain closed. It’s “essential” to have a manicure or dinner at a bar, but not school.

The public school remote learning plan was to have our 2nd grader and kindergartner watch a screen for a few hours in the morning, then do self-directed study in the afternoon. We’re lucky enough to have some work flexibility, with me working from home and my wife working part-time, so we have more resources than the average family.

But let’s be honest – remote learning didn’t work in the spring, and it’s not going to work in the fall.

The spring was an absolute disaster. Despite an excellent teacher in one of the best districts in the state, our first-grader got 15 minutes with the teacher… PER WEEK. When we talked with other parents, they said we were lucky – they got nothing.

And our children missed out on what they needed the most – social interaction with other students. That’s what school is all about.

And that’s why we’re opting out of the public school system. It has completely failed us.

We’ve enrolled our children into private school for the fall, and they will receive 5-days per week in-school instruction.

It certainly won’t be normal. They’ll have to wear a mask, and their class will be divided up into smaller groups. It will be more difficult to learn, and they’ll have less interaction with their primary teacher and other students.

However, this option vastly trumps remote learning, which does not accommodate the specific needs our children have.

Again, we’re lucky. We have the resources to be able to afford private school and opt-out of the madness of public schools. My encouragement to other parents feeling a similar burden is to not accept the status quo. Do not accept sub-standard instruction in public schools. Stand up for your children and seek every remedy possible to meet their needs. Call out the hypocrisy of school closures in the face of an otherwise open economy (including open for “mostly peaceful” protesting). Our children are at stake.

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