Written by CAPA-JRC reporterJoy Jiang
On Friday, January 21, hundreds of Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) students walked out of school to demand better COVID-19 prevention methods and call for virtual learning. As more and more schools surged into the red zone for COVID-19 cases – 5% of the total student population – students were concerned about their safety and the safety of their family and friends.
One of Poolesville High School junior Heera Anand’s biggest concerns was the issue of keeping especially vulnerable students safe from the virus. “Students who are immunocompromised or have family members who are immunocompromised would be forced to keep going to [school in] a potentially unsafe environment for them,” they said. These students would then face the choice of risking in-person school or staying home to self-study class material without a robust school support system in place.
At the event, students spoke about their own experiences in school and their visions for MCPS COVID-19 policies. Their speeches ranged from stories about having family members in the hospital, anxieties about schoolwork combined with the stress of the potential to get COVID-19, and much more. “It was a really powerful image,” Anand said, “of all the students standing in solidarity for the cause of student safety, clapping and cheering each other on after each student’s speech. It was a very accepting and supportive environment and the walkout was really indicative of the power that students have when we bring our voices together.”
In the following days, many schools from across the county proceeded to host their own walkouts. For example, at Richard Montgomery High School, a walkout was staged the next Wednesday, with students gathering outside to voice their beliefs despite the cold. Gaining the attention of the press, the MCPS Board of Education, and the Maryland Department of Health and Human Services, these walkouts have been remarkably effective in demonstrating students’ frustrations. In the midst of a spike in student and teacher coronavirus cases, students have made their thoughts heard all across the county in a widespread effort for change.
This article was provided by Chinese American Parents Association Junior Reporter Club (CAPA JRC) with members who interviewed, audio recorded, wrote, translated, and video recorded. CAPA JRC has 25 Montgomery County middle to high school students. They have created a bilingual platform delivering news and serving the community.