ROUND ROCK, Texas (KXAN) — A Round Rock Independent School District student petition calling for tighter COVID-19 protocols has gained over 600 signatures.
Students who have signed the petition are planning for a districtwide walkout Thursday, Jan. 20 if “demands aren’t met.”
The petition was initially launched at Cedar Ridge High School in Round Rock, and it’s now made it to several middle and high schools.
There’s a list of things students are asking for:
- 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
- Rapid or PCR tests are provided every two weeks for everyone on campus
- All students are provided outdoor spaces to eat, even when it rains.
“Our rooms are quite small but when you combine those together, it’s smoothed,” said a Round Rock tenth grader.
This Round Rock ISD tenth grader wished to remain anonymous, but she’s signed the petition that’s gaining traction by the hour. Hundreds of sixth, eighth and high schoolers have also joined the force.
“My mom takes care of patients who are sick, on death’s door… they can’t… they don’t have the immune system to fight something else,” the student said.
The petition claims five things:
- Close contacts aren’t being tracked
- The district’s mask mandate is not enforced
- Students don’t have access to recommended masks
- Students don’t have access to testing
- There’s no sub coverage when teachers are sick, forcing multiple classes to gather in one space.
“The students of Round Rock ISD no longer feel comfortable going to school as cases of COVID-19 soar. With the highly contagious Omicron variant, it’s clear measures currently in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19 aren’t working. If the district can’t create a safe learning environment, we must shift to remote learning until cases go down again,” wrote the creator of the RRISD petition.
Round Rock ISD responded by saying the district is one of the only school districts to require masks, despite facing multiple lawsuits.
“Our protocols remain the same regarding masks, no visitors on campus, social distancing to the extent possible, encouraging frequent hand-washing and providing hand sanitizer, etc.,” said an RRISD spokesperson. “We do allow for an exemption form, so it’s possible that there are students who are not wearing masks who have a form on file.”
Round Rock said the district’s close contact protocols are similar to others, and it’s notifying elementary classrooms, athletic teams, fine arts and self-contained special education classes when someone tests positive for COVID.
“At the secondary level, we are no longer tracing class to class, as those students are not in contact for as long. It was also taking our assistant principals and school nurses hours and hours to track for each case at the secondary level and we simply do not have the manpower to continue at that level.”
The district also recognized the crippling staff shortages happening across the board and has asked for guest educators to help and district administrators.
“We understand the students’ concerns, but we 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 the school on a daily basis.”
But Round Rock ISD students feel current measures aren’t working, so they’re planning a walkout.
“Since we’re going to be there until 10, they will get the attendance, they’re going to get the money for that,” said a Round Rock ISD student. “It’s more to show people, this is how many people per school feel unsafe.”
Round Rock ISD said the district could get to the point where there aren’t enough subs and volunteers to go around, so it is prepared to close a school temporarily if that does happen.