MVSD Superintendent Tom Venable speaks to demonstrators outside the District office, with with 3 of 5 school board members. Photo by C. Creighton

WINTHROP – Over 100 people turned out for a Methow Valley School District Board meeting on Thursday evening, the 9th. The concerns of the people in attendance were centered largely on COVID-19 policies that the board had enacted before the start of the school year, which participants felt were discriminatory towards children as well as teachers. A recent incident of COVID-19 exposure at the school brought the disparate treatment to the forefront, in which un-vaccinated high-school students and teachers were forced to quarantine (teachers: without pay) for 2 weeks, even if not symptomatic, and exposed but vaccinated individuals are allowed to continue as normal but take a test a few days later. The individual who was sick and exposed others in this case, was indeed vaccinated.

The District’s own COVID-19 Handbook procedures contradict themselves, (pages 7-8), first in saying:

  • “An employee’s privacy is important and will be maintained by supervisors to every extent possible.

  • No staff/student will be ostracized for being sick with COVID. COVID infections do not discriminate and neither will the district.”

But then immediately after, listing a “Return to School” procedure that violates both of those ideals to any outside observer. Attendees of this rally say the primary purpose of the public comments was to call out the members of the school board on such irrational and contradictory policies that are now causing harm, and to point out that such policies need changed to actually protect the privacy of those involved and ensure non-discrimination for teachers and students.

About seven people spoke before the school board via Zoom video conferencing, and each brought different aspects of their concerns forward during their allotted 3 minutes of speaking time. During this time, there were over 40 participants listening in to the meeting via Zoom, and displaying their hearty agreement with the speakers in the chat area. There were also more than 60 people gathered in person on the lawn in front of the District Office over the health discrimination issue and in support of those speaking to it. A portable speaker connected to a phone was setup by an attendee so that participants outside could also hear the virtual meeting.

Some excerpts of a couple of the speakers statements state their overall concerns:

"Our school district differs from other districts in their [COVID-19] protocol by choice. Protocols in the Methow Valley School District welcome vaxed children and teachers while excluding those who are unvaxed as a method of coercion. Unvaxed are excluded, sent home, and/or forced to take vacation/sick time when a COVID case arises in the school while the vaxed have a free pass as if they are untouchable, despite the fact that both are getting sick and are spreaders. Our children are being taught inequality and being subdued in a whole new educational system whose next step is to force the vax on the children as they are attempting to do with the adults. Our teachers deserve to choose their vax status, and earn a living without persecution. Our children need our intervention, so it’s no time to sit at home when we still have freedom of speech."

And another:

"We need to be thoughtful about what “layers” of protection we put in place for in-person instruction. We are all here because we care about children, and all children deserve to be a part of our community, no matter beliefs, lifestyle, or medical status. This means we cannot treat students or staff differently based on their vaccination status. We educate our students to be critical thinkers. How dare we be so hypocritical to shame or exclude students and staff for making informed decisions about their own bodies? If you feel compelled to say you do this out of safety and protection for all, I ask you: Why would we choose to only have the unvaccinated quarantine, when there is ample evidence to show that vaccinated individuals carry and spread COVID? We seek to develop curious, creative, compassionate, competent, action-oriented citizens prepared to change the world. Discrimination based on one’s medical choices has no place in our district. The Methow Valley School District has a history of courageously choosing to do what is best for all students. This year, that includes respecting that each unvaccinated individual has made that decision because it is right for them, and one can be aware of the risks of COVID and still choose to remain unvaccinated. The best for all students means maximizing the opportunity to be at school and participate in sports by avoiding unnecessary quarantines. Finally, it means maintaining the dignity, privacy, and personal rights of each individual, regardless of their medical history. We have done better, and we must continue to do better with our future policies and procedures."

An email to parents sent recently from the school nurse and activities director, outlining the same discriminatory policies and privacy violations for sports activities, may have also added to the motivation of many to attend and speak out.


Hello Mountain Lion Families, 
As we enter our first season of interscholastic sports, we'd like to share some information around what will happen when we have confirmed cases of COVID, including how vaccination status will impact quarantine protocols. The intent of this letter is not to promote vaccination, but simply to educate and inform you of the guidelines around returning to play as stipulated by the Washington State Department of Health (DOH).
In the event of a confirmed case, we will begin contact tracing in order to identify individuals who have had close contact. Those who are vaccinated do not need to quarantine so long as they are symptom free, but should seek a test within 3-5 days of exposure. Provided that this test is negative, the individual may participate in school and sports without additional guidelines or restrictions. 
For those who are unvaccinated, quarantine will be 14 days after the last close contact with the individual who tested positive for COVID, with tests required should symptoms develop. Needless to say, this could potentially have a dramatic impact on the participation of a student athlete in the classroom and in athletic competition. Teams that stay healthy and avoid extended periods of quarantine will enjoy all of the benefits of working hard and playing together, as well as the distinct competitive advantage of being able to compete in games. 
We sincerely hope that this is not an issue that often presents itself, but wanted to make sure that everyone has information to make informed choices. Our mitigation strategies, including improved ventilation and mask wearing, have proven themselves to be effective and will continue to help control the spread of COVID. Together we can navigate another challenging season and keep our student athletes out there competing in the games they love.
Adriana Vanbianchi, School District Rn
Michael Wilbur, Activities Director



Demonstrators at MVSD Office. Photo by C. Creighton
Demonstrators at MVSD Office. Photo by C. Creighton
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