Brooklyn, NY – With the ever growing concerns surrounding the new omicron variant spreading faster than its previous successors, there should be more of a cause for concern. Well, for New York City schools everything is going back to normal with in-person learning and the city’s high school students are not taking it lightly. On January 11 across the city, students poured out into the streets in protest of the regulations for COVID which they deemed unsafe for their health.
It’s unclear how many students total walked out of their schools, but Brooklyn Technical High School amassed the most with 600 students flooding the streets. “It doesn’t feel safe to be in school to be honest,” Danny Mui, a sophomore at the 6,000-student Brooklyn Tech told the Daily News. “In my classes, half the classes aren’t there. Some have COVID, some are afraid of COVID, and the school just isn’t doing anything about it.”
The protest started on social media with posts flooding feeds urging the kids to walk out in protest of the unsafe conditions and neglect by their schools. The Instagram account @nycstudentwalkout2022 posted 6 photos containing information about what to do, asking students for evidence from their schools, how to speak to policy makers, and more. The account has over 4,000 followers currently with some users commenting to stage another walk out.
Across Twitter the hashtag #nycstudentwalkout showed videos of the students leaving their school buildings and sharing the experiences they’ve had going back to in person learning. One Twitter user @kimtellect said, “the last week since school started again after break, I’ve had to spend periods just sitting in the gym because my teachers arent here, and there are no substitutes. 500 cases in my school of 1.4k students, and yet we still have to remain open.. at least offer us a blended option.”
According to the students, administrators were discouraging them from walking out even though the attendance rate has gone down to 69% across schools. “We understand the concerns of our school communities during this crisis and wholeheartedly support civic engagement among New York City students,” said Education Department spokeswoman Sarah Casanovas. “We’ve doubled in-school testing and deployed 5 million rapid tests to quickly identify cases, stop transmission and safely keep schools open. Student voice is key, and we’ll continue to listen to and work closely with those most impacted by our decisions — our students.”
While the rapid tests are being handed out, the system is flawed as some students are getting more than they need while others aren’t given any at all. “They give some students so much more than what they need, and some kids they don’t get it at all,” said Raida Hasan, a ninth-grader to Daily News.
The mayor has been adamant about keeping schools open and that in person learning is better for the students overall, but if teachers and students are constantly out sick what are they to do? One Brooklyn Technical student reported having four subs in one day and felt not much work was getting done because of it. Several students are asking for at least an approach to hybrid learning to hopefully stop the spread of COVID and to ensure they are still able to learn properly. Coming to school is, “a raffle-type thing where. … It’s like ‘I hope I don’t get COVID today,’ according to sophomore Daniel Chen.