Thousands of Students Stage Walkouts, Protest In-Person Classes Amid COVID Surge

Thousands of U.S. students and teachers are organizing walkouts and work stoppages over their schools’ lack of COVID-19 precautions – a development that comes amid an unprecedented upsurge in coronavirus cases as the the Omicron variant tears through the nation.

On Tuesday afternoon, hundreds upon hundreds of students from New York City’s schools participated in a school walk-in. flooded out of class midday in protest of their school’s choice to continue in-person learning despite the uptick in COVID-19 cases over the past month, according to The New York Post. The demonstration saw a large participation rate from Brooklyn Tech High School and Stuyvesant High. Bronx Science was also represented. It called for an immediate transition into remote learning until the pandemic subsides. Students are also requesting that their schools increase routine testing, health screening, and social distancing to protect themselves and their staff.

The demonstrations take place at a time when students are not attending school in New York City. According to New York Department of Education just 45% students showed up to class last Friday – roughly half the typical turnout. Several student demonstrators told AMNYThey refused to attend classes because they were afraid of spreading the virus to their families, many of which are immunocompromised.

On Tuesday, more than 7,000 students were diagnosed with coronavirus in New York, while nearly 1,200 staff members were affected. Students and teachers in New York City have warned about the high risk of outbreaks because many schools are located in close quarters. Mayor Eric Adams, who was elected at the beginning of January, has refused school closures despite these fears. stressing that the city “must learn to live with COVID.”

Theo Demel, a fourteen-year-old eighth grader who helped Organise the demonstrations. Salon Adam’s stance is wrong-headed, suggesting that the mayor is downplaying the virus for political reasons.

“I’ve spoken to Mr. Adams. He’s a politician,” Demel said in an interview. “His approval ratings will go down, probably. And on a national level, it might look like he doesn’t have it under control – which frankly, he doesn’t.”

In Columbia, Missouri, over 120 Hickman High School students coordinated a similar effort, staging a walkout in protest of the Columbia Public Schools’ decision to suspend its mask mandate, according to The Columbia Tribune.

The board’s decision, handed down on January 4, reportedly came amid a significant uptick in cases throughout the state’s school system. According to district dataThe 14-day rate per 10,000 residents within district boundaries has jumped from 123 to 139. This week KOMU reported COVID is currently affecting approximately 187 students.

An online petition signed by thousands of students is asking the board to “reevaluate and discuss [its] COVID safety measures.”

“Our community has reached record high active cases for four days in a row,” petition organizers wrote to the board. “You are not following the guidance of the health department as you state in your mass communications.”

Similar services are available in Boston. petition was launched by William Hu, a senior at Boston Latin School, amid an “extremely concerning” outbreak first identified at the school three weeks ago, according to The Boston Globe. The petition, which has over 7,200 signatures, urges Charlie Baker, Massachusetts Governor, to allow students remote learning until Omicron peters are out.

“The oppressive adamance of Governor Charlie Baker’s words ‘We count in-person school as school’ is a horrifying example of a dazed and confused education system. Schools aren’t even given the option of turning remote,” Hu wrote in his petition. “What is Governor Baker actively condoning here? Are school districts so engrossed in maintaining ‘normalcy’ that they are unwilling to make a change for the health and safety of our communities?”

Michelle Wu, Boston Mayor, spoke likewise to an NBC affiliate that Baker’s policy is too rigid and that she supports a remote option, given that 200 staff are already out sick due to COVID. “Many of these schools are already preparing to offer remote learning whether or not it gets counted by the state,” Wu said.

The student protests come at a time when teachers and districts across the country are engaged in intense tug-of war. They remain divided over whether schools should be closed as COVID-19 cases rise.

This conflict first became public last week when the Chicago Public Schools (CPS), following a unanimous vote by the Chicago Teachers Unions (CTU), shut down classes and opted for remote instruction in light of COVID concerns. The vote, supported by 73% of the union’s 25,000 members, continues to affect roughly 360,000 students and staffers throughout the city. The union is arguing that CPS has failed to provide adequate masks, testing, and health screening measures to both teachers and students, creating a breeding ground for an outbreak in the city’s schools.

Lori Lightfoot, Chicago Mayor, was elected Tuesday tested positive COVID-19 has opposed remote learning, arguing that it is too expensive for parents.

On Wednesday, Lightfoot and the CTU reportedly reached an agreement ensuring certain slightly higher closure thresholds and improved testing requirements, but the mayor did not allow the union to make remote learning an option, which was the union’s chief demand. The union, for its part, called the deal “more than nothing, but less than what we wanted.”

Though Chicago has made the majority of headlines this past week, it’s not the only city where teachers have led demonstrations.

A total of 40 teachers from Olney Charter High School in Philadelphia were notified that a 17-year old senior, Alayna Thach died from COVID. They claimed that the school did not take enough precautions to prevent her death and that it was not taking adequate measures to protect staff and students.

Sarah Kenney, Olney’s 10th-grade African American History teacher, told The Philadelphia Inquirer that “Alayna’s death should have been a wake-up call for Olney Charter’s corporate managers.

“We need a more robust COVID mitigation strategy, which should include testing, more nursing staff, a plan for physical distancing in the lunchroom, more stringent mask compliance, and a vaccine clinic on premises,” Kenney said.

​​Aspira, Inc., the corporation that manages Olney, responded that teachers were “demanding additional safety protocols without citing any relevant detailed claim – and, despite the fact that the school administration has taken thorough open measures to protect the health and safety of students and staff.”

Olney shortly transitioned to remote learning following Thach’s passing, stating that it would remain remote until the week after Christmas break.

Meanwhile, in Oakland, California, students and parents are currently expecting their second teacher sick-out after a coalition of 503 teachers spanning twelve schools called out sick last Friday in solidarity with students aggrieved by their school’s lack of COVID safety.

According to The San Francisco ChronicleClassrooms are available for rent. thinned out These weeks have seen an increase in absenteeism, both among students and teachers. Students in the area have also indicated that their willingness to strike until safety demands can be met by writing in a petition Supported by more than 1,200 signatories, schools should not transition into remote learning unless students are provided with KN95 Masks, more outdoor spaces, and administered semi-weekly PCR/rapid tests.

Although there is a wide range of the press has indicated Recent research shows that parents are not happy with school closings. Axios poll 56% of respondents support remote learning to stop the spread COVID.