A thank you to readers and the courage it takes to share their stories

Education reporter Venice Buhain was impressed by the willingness of families to share their complex reasons for staying in or leaving their public schools.

Two photos of masked students, families, and teachers

Left: Bernardo Garcia, top right, an in-house language translator at Highline Public Schools, translates for Laura Gutierrez, center, and Diana Mora, bottom right, at Raisbeck Aviation High School. (Genna Martin/Crosscut) Right: Lindsay Eicher, lead teacher at the Madrona Village School, an independent schoolhouse in Seattle, works with students on March 10, 2022. (Jovelle Tamayo/Crosscut)

This message is a big thank you and an appreciation in advance.

Several months ago, as Crosscut reported on the number of K-12 students who had left Washington state’s public schools since the beginning of the pandemic, we posted a questionnaire asking families why they considered removing their kids from public schools — or why they didn’t.

Our form asked only 10 questions, but people shared so much, and for that we are grateful.

Families throughout Washington state shared their experiences and frustrations — as well as some gratitude and discoveries — about their public schools during the pandemic.

A significant number of families chose to leave for reasons that apply outside of the COVID-19 era, including a lack of resources for special education or gifted education, a need to support their child’s mental well-being or a concern over differing political philosophies. Still others were grateful about the support they received during the pandemic that helped them keep their children in public schools, or expressed their belief in the social good of a strong and well-supported and well-attended public education.

We were able to connect with some parents for our follow-up story, and many eloquent responses reminded us about what matters to families who face the intersection of navigating language interpretation and special education at the same time. 

As expected, people were frank about their school experiences. (If there’s one thing we can count on, it’s that families are seldom neutral when it comes to their local schools.) What we didn’t expect was how many passionate and thoughtful responses — more than 100 — we received from the community.

We made it optional to leave contact information, but the vast majority were open to follow-ups.

The first story that emerged from the questionnaire helped us — and your fellow Crosscut readers — get a glimpse of why people chose to leave public schools or what encouraged them to stay. We were grateful that one school that opened during the pandemic let us in and hang out all day and talk with parents and kids about their experiences.

Part of why journalism exists is to help people learn about their fellow community members, however they define their communities.

In a world that seems increasingly polarized, sharing a personal story and opening up your life can take a great amount of courage.

I hope that we journalists at Crosscut play a part in amplifying your voices with stories to foster the compassion and understanding that leads to meaningful change, decision-making and empathy. It’s the people we speak with who have the most important role and are the center of our work.

We could have written a dozen stories from the responses that parents gave (and stay tuned because we haven’t ruled that out yet). If you want to get in touch with us and let us know what we’re missing, we’re as close as an email. I’m at venice.buhain@crosscut.com.

Please accept this essay as a thank you to each one of you who has opened up your life even for a brief moment with your community, and a thank you in advance for those of you who will share your stories in the future.

 

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About the Authors & Contributors

Venice Buhain

Venice Buhain

Venice Buhain writes about education with an equity lens. She previously worked for KING 5, The Seattle Globalist and TVW News.