Denver students join nationwide protests, classroom walkouts over COVID-19 safety

"We certainly understand our students’ frustrations," the school district said.

January 20, 2022, 2:01 PM

Students at Denver Public Schools say they will walk out of classes every day in protest beginning Thursday until the school district meets their demands concerning in-school COVID-19 safety.

The students' demands were outlined in a letter to the DPS superintendent and in a petition, with more than 700 signatures.

"Us students don't feel safe going to school in these deadly conditions, not until the [COVID-19] cases are brought down to a safer number," the letter reads. "We see it as necessary to speak up about how the Denver Public School District enacts its COVID regulations."

PHOTO: Students gather outside of Chicago Public Schools headquarters to stage one of several mass "Walkout for COVID Safety" at high schools due to the spread of Omicron, in Chicago on Jan. 14, 2022.
Students gather outside of Chicago Public Schools headquarters to stage one of several mass "Walkout for COVID Safety" at high schools due to the spread of Omicron, in Chicago on Jan. 14, 2022.
Jim Vondruska/Reuters

In the letter, students are demanding that KN95/N95 masks to be provided to all students; HEPA filtration and airflow be provided in all classrooms; twice-a-week COVID tests for in-person students; integrated learning for remote students; and weather-protected outdoor spaces for safe lunches. The letter also detailed the students' plan of action if those demands were not met before Jan. 20.

"We are willing to risk our education and walk out if it means we are protecting our health," the letter read.

In a statement to ABC News, the Denver public school district defended its current efforts to quell COVID-19 in schools.

"We certainly understand our students’ frustrations," the statement read. "This is a very difficult time for schools right now, here in Denver and across the state and country. But our scholars and families rely on our schools, and we need to do everything we can to keep them open for in-person learning and support."

Young people leave the Martin Luther King Jr. Educational Campus as some students in New York City staged a walkout to urge officials to offer remote learning options due to concerns over safety amid the spread of Omicron, in New York City, Jan. 11, 2022.
High school students leave the Martin Luther King Jr. Educational Campus as some students in New York City staged a walkout to urge officials to offer remote learning options due to concerns over safety amid the spread of COVID-19, in New York City, Jan. 11, 2022.
Mike Segar/Reuters

The district said that health experts have fully supported keeping schools open.

The DPS Board of Education also said in a statement to ABC News that officials "understand the challenges of dealing with the uncertainty and ongoing disruptions caused by COVID and remain committed to working together to keep schools open to serve our students and greater community."

PHOTO: Students gather outside of Chicago Public Schools headquarters to stage one of several walkouts for COVID Safety at city high schools due to the spread of Omicron, in Chicago, Jan. 14, 2022.
Students gather outside of Chicago Public Schools headquarters to stage one of several walkouts for COVID Safety at city high schools due to the spread of Omicron, in Chicago, Jan. 14, 2022.
Jim Vondruska/Reuters

As of Jan. 19, DPS reported 378 students were confirmed positive for COVID, with 87 quarantined, and about 91 staff members confirmed positive, with six in quarantine. DPS has about 200 schools and an enrollment of more than 90,000 students.

COVID-related protests have cropped up in schools in Chicago, Boston, New York City and other cities. The recent surge in cases due to the omicron variant has sparked further concerns over the way COVID is being handled in schools and has led to school staffing shortages.

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