RM students walk out over MCPS covid policies


Photo courtesy of Naima Goffney

RM students walk out of the advisory period in protest of the county’s response to COVID-19.

Helina Tamiru, Social Justice Editor

On Wednesday, Jan. 26, over 50 RM students engaged in a walkout to protest MCPS’s covid policies. Students left the building during the advisory period and met on the football field to call out the county’s covid mitigations. Participants advocated for stricter safety measures and a transition to virtual school for a 10-day period.

Voicing concerns about what they felt was poor leadership from the county, students urged MCPS to change their approach to the crisis. “[MCPS] needs to be taking stricter measures and they need to be setting a good example for other counties,” sophomore Amanuel Hailie said.

MCPS’s repeated commitment to in-person learning was a source of frustration for many students. With a growing number of cases, a staff shortage and impacted bus routes, students at the walkout saw remote learning as the adequate solution. “Coming back is what’s getting people to continue to get covid,” sophomore Meilani Wilson said. “It’s keeping people more safe when you take a break.” 

Students also expressed their disapproval of MCPS’s communication and transparency with the community. The county had originally set up a system to classify schools with an outbreak; if a school’s infected population had reached 5 percent, that school would be considered for a virtual shift. Within a week, the majority of schools entered the “red zone.”

However, state officials told the county that they could not use the 5 percent trigger as it did not align with state guidelines, so MCPS retracted the system. Now, the county is working with the Maryland Department of Health and Human Services, considering multiple factors, besides case numbers, to decide which schools will transition to online. 

Currently, 16 schools are learning remotely, but many students voiced that this is not enough.  “MCPS should take covid more seriously instead of putting students in danger,” freshman Helena Barros Checcucci said. 

 The walkout was preceded by a larger county-wide walkout on Jan. 24. RM administration and student leaders collaborated in scheduling the protest to a later date so that students would not receive unexcused absences for leaving class. 

While students returned to class after advisory, many pledged to continue to advocate and make their voices heard. “I don’t like to just stand and let something be taken care of for me,” sophomore Udy Mbanaso said. “I believe if you want something done, you have to do it yourself.”