Some District students walked out of class Tuesday to advocate for remote learning over coronavirus concerns, adding their voices to the growing pupil unrest over pandemic safety, even with the omicron wave ebbing.
Students 4 Safe Learning called for a return to remote instruction “for the duration of the COVID-19 surge,” as well as weekly testing for students and staff and a virtual-learning option.
“Students are learning in unsafe conditions,” the group tweeted. “Students feel unsafe. There’s so much stress that comes with not knowing if you’re bringing something home to your family and friends. It all takes a toll on our mental health. Help us!”
A few dozen students were shown in photos and video holding signs outside Benjamin Banneker High School. Students were encouraged to wear red, as worn by teachers’ union members at their “red for ed” events.
The protest was held after students from 18 Montgomery County high schools walked out Friday to push for two weeks of virtual learning, holding signs with messages like “Covid Breeding Ground” and “Seeking Safety is Not a Crime.”
Students in Boston, Chicago, Denver, New York City and Portland have also staged walkouts since schools reopened after winter break for in-person learning, despite a surge in cases from the highly contagious omicron variant.
“At the moment school is only spreading COVID and taking teachers and students away from classrooms,” MCPS Students for Virtual said on Instagram. “For this reason, schools need to go virtual TEMPORARILY now to mitigate the problem instead of exacerbating it.”
Some schools have already switched temporarily to virtual instruction. In Montgomery County, 16 schools went to a 10-day remote-learning schedule on Jan. 20 over “multiple operational and health factors.”
“MCPS recognizes that the pandemic has dramatically affected students’ educational experiences and supports students’ desires to voice their concerns as part of engaging in civic life,” the district said in a statement.
Among those who tweeted their support for the District protest was at-large councilmember Robert C. White, who said he supported weekly testing while stressing the importance of classroom learning.
“We know students learn better in school. The only way to safely keep our schools open is to take proactive measures,” said Mr. White, who is running for D.C. mayor.
While COVID-19 cases remain high, the data indicates that the nation has begun to turn the corner.
“Nationally, the case numbers are coming down, which I consider an optimistic trend,” Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Friday at a White House briefing.
About half the states show declining daily cases. As of Jan. 19, the 7-day national moving average of daily new cases fell by 5% from the previous 7-day moving average, according to the CDC.
In the greater D.C. area, the decline has been even more dramatic. The 14-day rolling average as of Monday showed daily cases down by 47.8% in the District; 64% in Maryland, and 28.7% in Virginia, as shown in health-department figures compiled by WTOP.
Hospitalizations also dropped by double digits in the District and Maryland, although they increased by 17.5% in Virginia.
White House chief medical advisor Anthony Fauci said Sunday that he expects most states to reach peak omicron in February, citing the pattern in other nations showing the infection spiking quickly and then falling off dramatically.
“If you look at the patterns that we’ve seen in South Africa and the U.K. and in Israel, and … in the Northeast and New England and upper Midwest states, they peaked and started to come down rather sharply,” Dr. Fauci said on ABC’s “This Week.”
He said some Southern and Western states are still seeing rising cases, “but if the pattern follows the trend that we’re seeing in other places, such as the Northeast, I believe that you will start to see a turnaround throughout the entire country.”
For more information, visit The Washington Times COVID-19 resource page.