Parents, students rally in Mount Vernon, urge district to bring back high schoolers

VIDEO: Mount Vernon parents urging school district to bring older students back to in-person learning

MOUNT VERNON, Wash. — Parents in Mount Vernon rallied Tuesday outside the district headquarters, urging the Mount Vernon School District to bring back middle and high school students to the classroom more quickly.

Some are criticizing the district for not having a plan, while others say the district needs to be more transparent.

Parents at the rally pointed out that some other districts in Skagit County are further ahead when it comes to bringing older students back to the classroom.

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(Concrete School District had all high schoolers back in the classroom by the end of January. Burlington-Edison School District will bring back middle schoolers on Feb. 22 and stated, “We remain optimistic that we will bring back our students in grades 9-12 for in-person learning in the coming months.” Anacortes School District plans to begin in-person learning for high schoolers on Feb. 22.)

“What we’re doing right now is not good enough,” said Frei Burton, a Mount Vernon parent.

“We’d like those folks to hear our points of view and see that we are some concerned parents,” said Kevin Henning, gesturing toward the administration building. Henning is the parent of a senior at Mount Vernon High School.

Parents and students shared their frustration, saying there should be more information on when sixth grade through high school students will return to in-person learning.

“It’s been a real bummer losing the entirety of our senior year,” said Steven Alvarez, a student at Mount Vernon High School.

“It’s hard to stay motivated. Stuff seems optional. It’s not the same at all. Tough to learn for sure. And just missing out on all the fun senior things,” said Gabe Hander, another student at Mount Vernon High.

KIRO 7′s Deedee Sun sat down with Superintendent Ismael Vivanco before the rally. He said the conversations to bring older students back to the classroom are underway.

“We’d love to see our secondary kids back here,” Vivanco said. “We are still moving forward whether there’s a rally or not as best as we can do. We are always being transparent with information we have,” he said.

But some parents and students rallying said they believe the district can improve.

“Just share those plans with us. We don’t need to be in the dark anymore. We deserve to know what’s coming for our kids,” Burton said.

“We’ve gotten nothing. We get no updates,” Hander said.

Vivanco said the district — which is the largest in Skagit County — is currently discussing with the unions on the memorandum of understanding (MOU) and figuring out details like schedules. Officials are also gathering advice from other superintendents in the area.

“Frankly, the MOU we’re working on with secondary — a big portion of that is done,” Vivanco said.

Mount Vernon SD brought back students in kindergarten to first grade on Feb. 8.

By the end of March, the rest of the students through fifth grade will be back.

But Vivanco said there’s no date to share yet for older students.

“I don’t want to wait until we’re done with five (5th grade) until we bring back secondary,” Vivanco said, hinting that a return for high school students could come before the end of March.

“We don’t want to put something out there we just don’t know,” Vivanco said. “Too many times people put out a date, and they have to backtrack, and we’re just trying to avoid doing that,” he said.

Vivanco also addressed rumors he said were circulating, saying the ongoing construction at Mount Vernon High School had some people worried the work will squash any chance of students coming back this school year.

“And that’s absolutely not true. Like everything else I just noted — with construction, it’s a fact that we have to take into consideration, but I’m hopeful we can bring back secondary students, especially high school,” Vivanco said.

Vivanco added he’s hoping to share more information next week, which will come through the weekly Superintendent Update.