RRISD Students Walk Out of School


The school year has been faced with countless new challenges in the face of Covid-19. The shift back to inperson school from online classes has been a surreal transition for many; no longer can you wake up at 9 a.m and log into your first period. Just the act of entering the building is a daunting task for many, and as pressure builds over safety protocols, push-back was also built. In RRISD, pushback came in the form of district wide, organized walkouts.

“My ESL class usually has about 22 people, but last week it was down to five,” senior Lillian Kiefer said. “We have one-third of our teachers out. It’s obvious that there’s a problem, but nobody’s doing anything to solve it.¨

RRISD’s stance on Covid-19 has morphed rapidly across the short months of the school year, changing under pressure from students and parents alike. Beginning the year with a loose mandate, cases quickly began to spread, and soon the mask policy was heightened. The district released opt out forms, allowing for those with health and developmental justifications to be exempt from the policy. Despite this specification, many still used the form as a way to get out of wearing masks. Cases only continued to rise, peaking in the days following the return from winter break.

¨I know a lot of people who are getting covid who wouldn’t be getting Covid if we actually took this seriously.¨ senior Ryan Good said.

The concept of the protest formally began at Cedar Ridge High School. Born from the widespread dissatisfaction with RRISD’s Covid-19 protocols, students district wide turned to the idea of an organized walk out as a form of protest. Students bound together in opposition towards lax Covid-19 policies, hosting separate walkouts all across the district. The demands of those protesting were simple: enforcement of the mask mandate, contact tracing, and if those demands aren’t met, a virtual alternative to in person school. 

¨Social distancing is impossible without a virtual option,¨ senior Ursula Duong said. ¨And the mask mandate at our school is and has never been enforced, including the exemptions, which are clearly useless as you can choose not to wear a mask without anyone attempting to enforce it.¨

Students walked out on Jan. 20th. District wide, students left their classrooms and walked with homemade signs and heavy jackets through the 30 degree weather. 

¨If I could name one thing that made me decide to protest¨ Duong said, ¨It was knowing I wouldn’t be alone.¨

As a response to walkouts, acting superintendent Daniel Presley released an update via email, addressing the concerns of RRISD families and students about the Covid-19 surge. In this email Presley states that due to Texas laws and understaffing, a virtual learning program alongside on-campus operations would lead to a negative impact on the quality of both performances. State law also caps the amount of virtual learning allowed to no more than 10 percent of the district. Presley reassures the community that despite this, testing for Covid-19 is widely available through the district, and free testing can be accessed through companies such as CVS, H-E-B, and Walgreens. One of the biggest concerns, mask protocols, was also addressed. Presley said that RRISD’s protocols, including mask mandates, will remain in place. Despite this, due to Texas law, a mask mandate cannot legally be enforced in government buildings, including public schools.

“To help sustain this trend, our COVID protocols remain in place, including masks, social distancing when possible, enhanced air filtration, and closing classes if there is a significant number of epi-linked COVID cases,” Dr. Daniel Presley said. “We will evaluate again on Feb. 18 whether to adjust protocol.”