Students across the U.S. are planning school walkouts in protest of in-person learning as COVID-19 cases spike amid the rise of the Omicron coronavirus variant.
There are nearly 3,500 schools actively disrupted as of Friday, according to Burbio’s K-12 School Opening Tracker, which tracks school closures for 1,200 districts, including the 200 largest school districts in the nation.
On Tuesday, New York City students staged a walkout in protest of in-person learning over what they said were concerns about testing and safety mitigation measures. NYC Mayor Eric Adams said school was the “safest place” for children during a Friday news conference.
“Of course, it’s not zero-risk to have kids in school … With this increase in transmissibility, we will likely see an increase in cases in schools, but it’s likely not higher risk than many of the other activities kids participate in when they’re not in school,” Dr. Sara Bode, a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics Council on School Health, told Fox News.
A walkout, organized by the Boston Student Advisory Council and elected Boston Public Schools (BPS) students leaders, is planned for Friday also in protest of in-person school and safety measures.
“Walkout with us to protect our students, families and teachers,” a graphic posted by the group to social media said.
The group is asking for two weeks of remote learning, “proper” COVID-19 testing for students and teachers, more accessible food and lunch stations, assigned classroom lunches “to ensure proper contact tracing and reduce the spread of COVID,” academic test cancellations, changes to quarantine guidelines and excused absences, enforced masking and a requirement that at least one window is open in every classroom.
Massachusetts Republican Gov. Charlie Baker said schools are the “best places” for students amid the surge in COVID-19 in a Tuesday press conference.
Chicago Public Schools (CPS) students also planned a walkout Friday in protest of in-person learning, outlining a list of demands from CPS.
“We demand that our voices are not only listened to or heard, but the voice of our concerns are implemented within structures,” according to a graphic posted by “Chi-RADS,” a group of self-described “allied, radical CPS high schoolers from every corner of the city to organize to create an education system that best serves us.”
CPS canceled classes last week after the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) voted to switch to remote learning, citing a lack of safety guarantees amid a surge of COVID-19 cases, a union press release said.
The union’s resolution outlines planned to work remotely until Jan. 18 or until the current coronavirus case wave falls below last year’s threshold for school closures, according to the resolution. CTU’s House of Delegates voted to suspend its strike on in-person learning late Monday, resuming in-person learning Wednesday. (RELATED: Biden Administration To Distribute Millions Of COVID-19 Tests To K-12 Schools Each Month)
Some Democrats and public health officials have argued that case transfer mitigation efforts should allow students to remain in the classroom. Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Joe Biden’s chief medical advisor, said that many children hospitalized with COVID-19 are there for other reasons, but test positive upon hospital admission. Fauci stressed the importance of in-person learning for children who can benefit from “test-to-stay” policies and the availability of the vaccine.
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