St. Paul students stage walkout over COVID-19 issues, call for return to distance learning

Students walkout of class on Tuesday due to COVID-19 issues. (FOX 9)

While some school districts have returned to distance learning in the middle of the omicron surge, classes at St. Paul Public Schools remain in person.

That has some students concerned about their health, and they staged a walkout to make sure the district is taking their input into account.

At Highland Park Senior High School, hundreds of students walked out of class because they say the St. Paul public school district isn't making the grade when it comes to handling COVID-19.

"This is an equity issue. This is life and death," said walkout organizer Jerome Treadwell of Mn Teen Activists.

The students want the district to return to distance learning for two weeks while it comes up with a plan for them to return to the classroom safely. They also have a list of demands including providing KN-95 masks for staff and students, twice a week testing for staff, and weekly testing for students.

"We are in a public health crisis. Keeping our students' families safe from the spread of the multiple variants of Covid-19 and continuing to provide education options to all students are critical at this time," said Treadwell.

The district says it has addressed some of the students' concerns. Staff are already tested once a week and the district just ordered more N95 masks that are currently for staff, but they will be made available for students in the future.

But the district says it has no plans to test all students because it would cost $1.6 million a week and plenty of community testing sites are open.

"The current situation is unsustainable. To do nothing is abdicating the school district's responsibility to our community," said Treadwell.

In the meantime, students say they will continue the walkouts until their voices are heard.

"We do not want to die to receive our education. The time is now for staff to ensure that students receive their education," said Treadwell.

SPPS is scheduled to receive more than $200 million dollars from the American Rescue Plan over the next 3 years for COVID-19 response efforts. District officials plan to set aside $2.2 million on PPE.

The district has already used $400,000 of that money to order those N95 masks last week.