(CHICAGO) — Students are walking out of their classes in Boston, Chicago and other cities across the country in protest of in-person learning conditions as COVID-19 rages on.
Public school students in Boston left their classrooms at 10:30 a.m. Friday to demand that local leaders take more initiative in reducing the spread of COVID-19 in schools and implement a two-week period for remote learning.
“We will then stand there for exactly 10 minutes, one minute for every hundred thousand new COVID-19 cases found on the 2nd of January,” according to a post from the student-run Massachusetts COVID Walkout Instagram page.
Following the walk-out, students held a webinar to discuss their fears about the handling of the pandemic in schools. Students at the virtual event recounted their urge to take action and keep their fellow students, teachers and staff safe.
They are demanding a two-week remote learning period, proper Personal Protective Equipment for teachers, adequate technology for remote learning and the cancellation of some standardized testing.
In a statement to ABC News, Boston Public Schools said it “believes deeply in students advocating for what they believe in.”
“We further believe it is critically important that we encourage and support them in expressing their concerns, beliefs and positions to their leaders,” the statement said. “We will continue to listen to our students and families as we navigate this latest surge and the impacts it has on our ability to remain in person and deliver a quality education.”
In spring 2021, Massachusetts officials said remote learning would no longer count toward required learning hours. Any school-wide remote learning days must be made up by students and teachers at the end of the year.
Boston Public Schools has reported 3,483 COVID cases as of Jan. 5, according to the district website.
Students in Chicago also walked out of their classes Friday and chanted demands that schools address COVID-19 safety concerns.
As they walked en masse on the streets and toward the administrative offices of the Chicago Public School district, students yelled, “Si se puede,” or “Yes, we can,” as well as “No more oppression, change is now in session!”
Chicago Public Schools’ Radical Youth Alliance, a student-run advocacy group, also sent a letter of demands to Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, CEO of Chicago Public Schools Pedro Martinez, Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Allison Arwady.
The students asked for transparency and accuracy in the school’s COVID-19 data, youth participation in decision-making and accountability for “mistakes.”
“As you consistently prove yourself and your leadership to be incompetent, we as Black and Brown young people are the common denominator of being the most harmed and impacted,” the letter read. “We are tired, exhausted, and frustrated.”
The group also backed the Chicago Teachers Union, which narrowly accepted a new agreement on COVID-19 safety precautions.
Chicago Public Schools had 10,928 cases among its students and staff since the start of the 2021-2022 school year, according to the district website.
In a statement, Chicago Public Schools said it “remains committed to fostering learning environments that allow students to respectfully deliberate issues with evidence and an open mind – and safely participate in civic action.”
According to the CPS website, students are required to wear masks in schools and answer a self-screener symptom questionnaire before school. Testing is optional.
Protests in New York, California and other states have highlighted the growing concerns that school leaders are failing to address COVID-19 and its impact on education and health in schools.
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