“People are coming to school positive.”
“I think the school experience is gone. People aren’t even showing up.”
“I avoid the cafeteria now.”
NYC students explain why they walked out of class.
Thousands of students from more than 29 New York City public schools abandoned their classes Tuesday walking out into frigid weather, demanding a remote learning option as Omicron surges and they feel unsafe at school.
As COVID cases rise and attendance remains unpredictable, New York City parents, students and teachers uncomfortable with in-person learning took to social media.
From coast to coast, Oakland and Boston students will soon stage their own walkouts.
One student’s reddit post last week described being in school as “beyond control,” detailing a day of absent teachers and “functionally no learning.” Study halls became “superspreader events.” Bathrooms were full of students taking COVID tests.
Teachers abandoned their classes when notified they had tested positive. Skipping class became “ridiculously easy,” the student wrote.
An anonymous student shared that their parents are forcing her to go to school despite testing positive for COVID.
Despite last week’s low attendance and 2022 first major snowstorm, Mayor Eric Adams has consistently opposed closing schools or offering a remote learning option.
“We don’t have any more days to waste and the long-term impact of leaving our children home is going to impact us for years to come,” Adams said, stressing schools are “sanctuaries.”
.@NYCMayor on decision to keep @NYCSchools open today: "We don't have any more days to waste and the long-term impact of leaving our children home is going to impact us for years to come. I'm not going to contribute to that."
— Spectrum News NY1 (@NY1) January 7, 2022
Students left the conditions they called unsafe in hopes of garnering attention from “policy-makers that can help close down schools temporarily,” organizers said in an instagram post.
Cruz Warshaw, a Stuyvesant High School Junior behind the walkout, charged it was “ignorant and inconsiderate to put people’s lives at risk for without reason.”
Three more juniors and seniors from Brooklyn Technical and Stuyvesant High Schools created social media accounts to share walkout plans and information on what they’re asking for — and why:
Before long, students from more than two dozen of the city’s schools said they would join in. The plan: Leave school at 11:52 a.m. — right before sixth period, around lunchtime for many — and head straight home.
Right on time and one after the other, Brooklyn Technical High School students did just that.
At noon dozens of students seen here at Brooklyn Technical High School participating in a student walkout. They are asking for a remote learning option amid rising #COVID19 cases in NYC. pic.twitter.com/yAZV8fOL2R
— William Denselow (@willdenze) January 11, 2022
By lunchtime, the cafeteria in New York’s largest school — by enrollment — looked like this:
Lunch on walkout day be like@NYCSW4COVSafety
When the most resourced HS has Ss fleeing due to safety can U imagine what other schools experience? Its time to join #Strike4SafeSchools to #RestoreRemote if @NYCMayor & @DOEChancellor cont to ignore publichealth pic.twitter.com/d1q9YZOoYc
— @breakthesilencenyc (@breaksilencenyc) January 11, 2022
Their exit was met with backlash, accusations they simply wanted the day off — and that they were probably all going to hang out.
This Brooklyn student insisted that wasn’t the case:
Not the adults bashing us for protesting. Go be salty somewhere else. If we wanted to skip school we would’ve not come at all. And I can freely exit tech after 6th period so again, if we wanted to skip we could do it any day. 6000+ kids in one building and no social distancing
— Mal (@ens_tar) January 11, 2022
However, some participants faced more than online anger. A redacted email from a Brooklyn school official threatened students with mandatory detentions upon their return.
— Dr. Lucky Tran (@luckytran) January 11, 2022
“There are so many people sick and our mayor is not doing enough to protect us … We want the choice to keep our bodies safe,” Felicia, a junior at Bronx High School of Science told The Riverdale Press reporter Sarah Belle Lin during Tuesday’s walkout.
Public school students will be walking out in in 18-degree weather to protest the inadequate COVID-prevention safety measures today across The Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens. I’m at the Bronx High School of Science to document theirs. (1/2) pic.twitter.com/sopBxTxK1X
— Sarah Belle Lin (@SarahBelleLin) January 11, 2022
Some of the city’s youngest learners, alongside parents, also joined the #Strike4SafeSchools.
Proud to stand with my 1st grader, fellow families of @STARAcademyPS63 @SchoolTns and our local @UFT members to demand #SafeSchools for our kids and educators. @NYCMayor @DOEChancellor stop putting our families in danger.#Strike4SafeSchools pic.twitter.com/j0KEF9pTmu
— Shawn Garcia (he/him) (@ShawnGarcia_NYC) January 11, 2022
Many students and parents disagree with offering a remote option and point to its shortcomings, including that tens of thousands still need reliable tech at home.
A few hours after the walkout, New York Schools Chancellor David Banks responded to the protests, asking student leaders to meet with him to work together for safe and open schools.
We understand the concerns of our school communities during this crisis. The best decisions are made when everyone has a seat at the table—I’m inviting student leaders to meet with me so we can work together for safe and open schools.
— Chancellor David C. Banks (@DOEChancellor) January 11, 2022