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Broward students call for two weeks of virtual school, more COVID testing and precautions

an n95 mask
Carl Juste
Miami Herald
Broward students are calling for free and available N95, KN95 and KN94 masks at schools.

A group of Broward high school students is calling for a two-week return to virtual learning, more personal protective equipment and more testing in response to the latest surge in COVID-19 cases.

Earlier this week, students were calling for a walkout on Monday, stating their case and sharing protest plans on an Instagram account. The Broward County School District sent a message to parents noting that student advocacy "needs to be outside the school day" and students would not be authorized to leave campus.

After receiving the district's warning against activism during school hours, students who were involved in organizing the effort told WLRN they were "likely canceling" the walkout plans. Specific information about when and where the walkout was supposed to happen has been removed from the Instagram account.

The students are calling for on-demand and free access to N95, KN95 and KN94 masks for students and staff. They also want weekly PCR and antigen testing for staff and on-demand testing for students.

And they called for a two-week "transitional period" of virtual learning in order to "return to a transmission-free environment."

A Broward County Public Schools high school student WLRN is identifying only as "D" to preserve his privacy said the students started organizing when they returned from winter break as cases of the omicron variant were raging.

"A lot of people were in disbelief that Broward County hadn't got online yet," he said. "And because we saw the inaction of the Broward County School Board and the superintendent, we decided that we had to take it on our own hands to preserve our safety."

In its message to parents, the district noted that visitors and vendors are now required to wear masks while on school property. Masks remain optional in schools — as required by state law.

The district also said in the message that free COVID-19 testing is available for students with parental permission, and free at-home tests are available for staff.

Public schools cannot return to all-virtual learning, under state law. They also do not have the extra resources provided at the beginning of the pandemic to handle the logistics involved in at-home education.

The omicron-driven surge has led students to stage walkouts over COVID safety around the country, including Denver, Boston, New York and Montgomery County, Maryland.

Broward high school students led statewide and national walkouts one month after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, where 17 people were killed. In that case, they were calling for stricter gun safety rules.

Nancy Klingener was WLRN's Florida Keys reporter until July 2022.
Kate Payne is WLRN's Education Reporter. Reach her at kpayne@wlrnnews.org
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