2022 | Schools

Hundreds of MCPS students walk out in protest of district’s handling of COVID-19

Participants call for temporary shift to virtual classes

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Walter Johnson High School students participate in a countywide walkout about MCPS' response to COVID-19.

Caitlynn Peetz

Hundreds of students across Montgomery County walked out of school on Friday afternoon, protesting what they feel are inadequate COVID-19 mitigation measures and demanding more flexibility for remote learning.

The walkout was held at about 20 schools across the county. Similar protests at some schools in the district are planned for Jan. 28.

Participants called for a temporary two-week shift to virtual classes, or an option for anybody who wants to stay home to participate in virtual classes.

MCPS leaders have repeatedly rejected the idea of a districtwide pivot to online learning, but several individual schools have moved to virtual classes temporarily.

Students also called for increased mental health support, adequate time for teachers to plan and prepare for classes, more frequent in-school COVID-19 testing and more frequent distribution of KN95 masks.

Gaithersburg High School students participate in a countywide walkout about MCPS’ response to COVID-19. Photo courtesy Brooke Ellinwood

Students said the district’s mask mandate also needs to be more strictly enforced because they often see their classmates wearing theirs incorrectly or inconsistently.

Catherine Seeger, a junior at Walter Johnson High School who helped organize the countywide event, said in an interview that MCPS isn’t doing enough to combat the widespread effects of the omicron variant.

Nora Vencill, a Poolesville High School student, said that, for some students, having to stay in school in person is affecting their mental health because they are worried about contracting the virus and getting sick, or infecting immunocompromised loved ones.

“Going to school scared for your life or someone else’s is not a good situation to be in, and it takes a toll on mental and physical health,” she wrote in an email to Bethesda Beat. “What position does MCPS think they’re in to tell US about OUR mental health and how virtual school is worse for that? I’m not saying that virtual school isn’t damaging to our mental health, I’m saying that the general consensus from the walkout today is that in-person is more damaging.”

Poolesville High School students participate in a countywide walkout about MCPS’ response to COVID-19. Photo courtesy Arjun Rao.