More than 8,000 people have signed an online petition initiated by a student at a Latin school in Boston calling on Governor Charlie Baker and other state officials to allow schools the option to switch to distance learning due to a spike in COVID-19 cases.
The Change.org petition was posted before students planned to leave classes at Boston Public Schools at 10:30 a.m. Friday in protest of the state’s ongoing policy that all classes must be held in person in order to count toward the school year.
“Forcing students to attend in-person learning is simply not safe. In crowded conditions such as hallway, lunch rooms, and halls, given the alarming infection rate of the new Omicron variant, schools are becoming a breeding ground for COVID-19,” William Hu, senior student at Boston Latin School The petition organizer, on the nuisance web page.
“Students are testing positive every day across Massachusetts, which poses a significant health risk to them as well as their loved ones. Some schools do not even enforce a strict mask-wearing policy,” said a statement. “Do not forget that students often live with loved ones at risk. , which considers bringing COVID home a death sentence.”
He wrote that Hu has seen the number of coronavirus cases swell among his peers in recent weeks, with 30 confirmed cases recorded out of his class of 370 even before the winter break.
“This is just the tip of the iceberg. Across Massachusetts, daily cases are skyrocketing,” Hu wrote. “A simple Google search brings you a very clear graph showing daily states in the tens of thousands, and it doesn’t seem to stop increasing.”
The students planned to make their voices heard by getting out of the classroom on Friday morning, according to the materials Posted on Twitter by the Boston Student Advisory Council, a student organization with representatives throughout the district.
One program indicated that students plan to checkout at 10:30, with a webinar and phone banking session, during which students will call and email city and state officials, at 11:30.
Sermons by students, teachers, nurses and families are expected to follow at 12:30. The public comment period is set at 1:30.
Specifically, it calls on responsible students to provide an option for schools to switch to distance learning for two weeks, along with appropriate personal protective equipment and testing for each BPS school.
Among other requests, protesters are also seeking to change quarantine guidelines for teachers and students, although those changes are not detailed in the materials.
“No one is asking for a complete shift to distance learning, just an option so that children can stay safe and continue their education,” Hu wrote in the petition. “Personal school shouldn’t be the only way to learn, we discovered that last year. We don’t start from square one.”
Boston Public Schools reported the absence of more than 1,000 employees last week amid the escalation of the virus, although not all of those employees have contracted the disease.
Mayor Michelle Wu suggested that she hoped state officials would provide some flexibility with the in-person policy.
“DESE currently does not allow any distance education at all, even if it is due to staff shortages, and so we continue to talk to them about the stalemate of this policy,” Wu said last week.
Baker and other state officials have stood by their position in requiring students and teachers to go to school in person this year to meet state-mandated requirements.
Last week, as students, teachers and staff returned to school buildings after the winter break, the governor said he expected the return to be a “challenging period of time” but remained adamant about maintaining the status quo.
“The rules here are very simple,” he said. “We count the in-person school as a school. If the school district is not open, at some point throughout the year, they can use the snow days until the snow days run out, but they need to provide their children with 180 days of in-person education this year. And we will do everything in We do our best to help them achieve that.”
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