SALT LAKE CITY — Dozens of students in the Salt Lake City School District are pleading to return to in-person learning.
They gathered outside East High School to protest the continued use of virtual learning.
The district has employed virtual learning exclusively since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in March.
“I feel like I’ve gone downhill in my learning since this started,” said Molly Thompson, a junior at East High. “Online school doesn’t work.”
Parents and students at the rally say virtual learning is causing education to suffer, while contributing to mental health problems.
“School is supposed to be a safe support system and not having that is a big loss,” said Mya Bateman, a senior at East High.
The district responded to the protest with a statement from interim Superintendent Larry Madden.
“The district has always been supportive of students engaging in their communities and safely exercising their First Amendment rights,” the statement reads. “Today’s student rallies are no exception. We welcome student voices – especially on issues that directly impact them – and encourage our students to continue to speak out on issues that are important to them.”
Currently, the district has two strict metrics that must be met before students can return to the classroom.
The county’s daily percentage of positive COVID-19 tests must be below 5% for seven consecutive days. Currently, that number is above 23%.
Also, the county’s COVID-19 case rate must fall below 10 per 100,000 residents. Now, that number is 92.
Students and parents who hope to return to the classroom this year hope this protest will inspire the district to amend those metrics.
They acknowledge the pandemic is real and understand reopening the classrooms will bring risks.
“I know some students aren’t comfortable going back to school and that’s ok,” Bateman said. “I think we all deserve a choice. I think as shown by the rest of our state, we are able to go back. It can be done safely.”
If classrooms do not reopen soon, they are concerned the impacts of a prolonged shutdown will linger without options beyond virtual learning.
“Our education is a critical foundation,” Bateman said. “It’s going to be a detriment for years, long beyond the pandemic.”
“We’ll wear masks.We will social distance.Just let us go back to school,” Thompson added.