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Students walked out of schools across New York City on Tuesday afternoon to protest inadequate COVID-19 protections and insist on a remote learning option until conditions improve.
The group of students, who organized on social media, called for more testing and better screening to find positive coronavirus cases. They urged administrators to return to remote or blended classes for people’s safety.
The walkout affected some of the city’s largest high schools, where hundreds of students took part, though it’s not clear how many students joined overall. More than 80% of students in two of the city’s largest high schools attended class on Tuesday, The Washington Post reported.
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul and New York City Mayor Eric Adams have advocated for in-person instruction, showing no signs of shifting to a remote option. Still, the New York City Department of Education invited student leaders from the schools that joined the walkout to discuss their concerns.
“We understand the concerns of our school communities during this crisis,” David Banks, head of the department, wrote in a Twitter post on Tuesday afternoon.
“The best decisions are made when everyone has a seat at the table — I’m inviting student leaders to meet with me so we can work together for safe and open schools,” he wrote.
School districts across the country have grappled with the best way to restart classes in 2022. Students from the Oakland Unified School District in California have threatened to boycott classes unless their district puts stricter mitigation measures in place and offers distance learning, according to The Mercury News . More than 1,100 students have signed a petition that gives the district until Monday to meet their demands.
Chicago Public Schools canceled classes for 5 days in a row as teachers and city officials debated safety measures and remote options, according to the Chicago Tribune . Schools reopened on Wednesday after the groups reached an agreement, which outlines criteria for closing schools with outbreaks, provides masks for students and teachers, and allows teachers to take unpaid leave if they have a medical condition that puts them at a higher risk of severe illness.
Elsewhere, districts have closed schools and pivoted to remote learning due to an alarming increase in COVID-19 cases and shortage of teachers. Oklahoma City Public Schools, the state’s second-largest traditional district, moved to online assignments for Thursday and Friday. In-person classes are expected to resume Tuesday after Martin Luther King Jr. Day, though district officials said virtual learning could continue, according to The Oklahoman .
“This is a manpower issue, and we are simply out of options,” Superintendent Sean McDaniel said Wednesday, noting that the district had been reassigning staff and hiring substitutes to cover classes.
In Mississippi, more than 3,800 students were out of school due to COVID-19 infections, according to the Clarion Ledger . Last week, more than 10,700 students and nearly 900 teachers were quarantined due to coronavirus exposure, and more than 1,500 teachers and staff had tested positive.
School reopenings have sparked debates worldwide. In France, teachers staged a mass strike on Thursday to express frustration with changing COVID-19 rules and call for stricter measures as the Omicron variant surges across the country, according to the BBC. The strike was organized by 11 teachers unions, which projected that 75% of teachers would join the movement and said that about half of schools would close.
Meanwhile, Uganda reopened its schools on Monday after the longest pandemic-related shutdown in the world, according to The New York Times . Classrooms closed in March 2020 for nearly 2 years.
The Washington Post: “New York City high school students stage walkout, citing inadequate covid measures.”
Twitter: @DOEChancellor, Jan. 11, 2022.
The Mercury News: “Oakland schools: Another ‘sickout’ set for Thursday in solidarity with students demanding COVID safety.”
Chicago Tribune: “Teachers union approves COVID-19 safety deal to end standoff with Chicago Public Schools.”
The Oklahoman: “All Oklahoma City Public Schools to close this week over COVID-19.”
Clarion Ledger: “Nearly 4,000 Mississippi students out of schools with COVID-19 infections.”
BBC: “Covid: Schools in France close as unions say 75% of teachers strike.”
The New York Times: “Uganda Reopens Schools After World’s Longest Covid Shutdown.”
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