ROUND ROCK, Texas (KXAN) — Students in the Round Rock Independent School District walked out of classes Thursday in protest of the district’s COVID-19 policy enforcement. The district told KXAN it shares students’ concerns.

More than 600 students signed a petition that was started among Cedar Ridge High School students but then was passed around to other high schools and middle schools.

The students are asking district administration to do 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
  • 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

At RRISD’s high schools, students planned to meet outside of their respective schools for what organizers call “socially-distanced protests.” An Instagram account dedicated to the walkout told middle school students to go home immediately after 10 a.m.

According to the district, students who participate in the walkout will receive an unexcused absence, but no other punishment. Principals also provided “a safe space” to gather for those who chose to participate.

Asmita Lehther, a senior at Round Rock High School and one of the organizers, said “things weren’t going to get better until we took a stand.”

“We care about student safety, we care about faculty safety, and we need the district to listen to us. We need a mask mandate that’s actually enforced.”

She was among of a group of students who attended Thursday night’s board meeting.

Round Rock ISD students walked out of class Jan. 20, 2022 in protest of the school district's COVID-19 policies. (KXAN photo/Ed Zavala)
Round Rock ISD students walked out of class Jan. 20, 2022 in protest of the school district’s COVID-19 policies. (KXAN photo/Ed Zavala)

Another student, a junior, said it’s all about student and staff safety.

“There are kids who don’t wear masks at all throughout the day, and I don’t feel safe,” the student said. “I don’t want to get sick and get my family sick.”

The student said kids should be getting tested weekly and a mask mandate should be enforced. The student also said a lot of teachers are out sick but they are “doing the best they can.”

“We just want the board to listen to us,” the student said.

The district said a mask requirement does continue to be in place, and there is free testing at a district site, with an effort being made to expand those testing opportunities.

The district also said it has upgraded its air filtration system in schools and closed campuses if there are many staff members out.

“We close individual classes and switch to remote learning temporarily (as allowed by TEA) when there are a significant amount of epi-linked cases in one class,” said the district. “However, we have to balance closure decisions with the importance of keeping schools open for a variety of reasons, including the important resources campuses provide daily that many families depend on.”

About 50 students at Round Rock High School walked out of class around 10:30 a.m.

At Thursday’s board meeting, KXAN spoke to one parent who enrolled one of her children in a virtual school before the pandemic even started. She says there are similar options for others to explore if they feel unsafe, including options offered through the Texas Virtual School Network.

But she says her children feel safe going to classes in-person at the district.

“I think the district has done what they can do and more than they need to do. There should be a mask option and a vaccine option…we are all about choice,” said Christie Slape.