ROUND ROCK, Texas — More than 1,000 Round Rock ISD students of various grades intend to stage a walkout if their demands are not met by the district in regard to strengthening COVID-19 protocols.
In a petition that as of Friday afternoon has more than 1,000 signatures, students demand the following:
- The district once again provides contact tracing and notifies close contacts
- Mask mandate is enforced
- KN95/N95 masks are provided in schools for every student
- The option for rapid or PCR tests are provided every two weeks for everyone on campus
- Testing sites are opened at each of the five high schools and two alternative high schools
- All students are provided outdoor spaces to eat, even when it rains
The petition goes on to say, "If our demands are not met, we will walk out on Thursday, January 20th at 10:00 AM for the entire day."
In a separate press release, students said it's the inaction of Round Rock ISD that brought on this petition and subsequent walkout.
"We began the petition in response to the actions taken by students of Oakland Unified School District as well as the inaction in our own district regarding COVID safety protocols," the news release reads.
The students go on to explain that while RRISD does have a mask mandate in place, this mandate is not being enforced, contact tracing is not being done and a lot of classes are having to double up as the district struggles to find substitute teachers.
Spectrum News 1 spoke with Round Rock students who said they feel inaction by the district is putting everyone in jeopardy.
"[There are] thousands of students that want this. We feel unsafe at our schools and we want to keep our community safe. We're begging you to listen to us. We just want safe schools," Eliana Smith, who attends Cedar Ridge High School, said.
"It's not that we're just complaining about this. This school is important to us, as much as we complain about it on the regular day-to-day. And if our future is compromised, then at this point it's largely not up to us anymore. Because we are making the decision to go to school every day, even though we don't feel safe," Cedar Ridge student Aihan Nguyen added.
"Without contact tracing, students are forced to assume every absent student is absent due to COVID-19 and we have been exposed, especially as the mask mandate goes unenforced," the news release states.
"Round Rock ISD is certainly not doing everything in its power to protect our community and mitigate the spread of COVID-19, and until our demands are met, it won’t be. We are aware that keeping schools open is important, but so is our safety. With Federal Education Relief funds, the district must act to implement more effective COVID protocols to ensure the safety of its students and community," the release reads.
The students have set the deadline for these changes to be made for Jan. 20.
Jenny LaCoste-Caputo on Jan. 18 provided Spectrum News 1 with the following statement:
"We understand the students' concerns and are doing everything within our power to mitigate the spread and deal with this current challenge. Keeping our schools open is critical for many in our community who depend on resources provided by schools on a daily basis.
"We will be communicating with students and their parents, reminding them that if they choose to walk out of class, they will receive unexcused absences for any classes they miss. However, there will be no other consequences for the students expressing their concerns.
"Campus principals are working to provide the students with a safe space to gather. Regarding our COVID protocols, they are as stringent as we are able to implement at this time and include a mask requirement, limiting visitors on campus to only those deemed essential, social distancing when possible, and enhanced cleaning and air filtration. We also close classes and programs when there are epi-linked positive cases and go beyond the Texas Education Agency's guidance on notification protocols.
"We understand that this is a stressful time for both students and staff and are making decisions on a daily basis, considering multiple factors, with the health and safety of our students top of mind."