QUILCENE — Jeremy Allen, a Quilcene High School sophomore recently recovered from COVID-19, participated in a walkout Tuesday along with two dozen classmates as other students watched nearby.
Holding signs saying “Hear us out” and “Students deserve communication,” the youngsters marched into the school’s parking lot on U.S. Highway 101 at 1:30 p.m. Passing motorists honked their horns.
Allen, 15, told the Peninsula Daily News that Quilcene High School provides too little support for students who isolate at home with the disease — and to make matters worse, he said, COVID-afflicted students are receiving failing grades as they come back to school.
Quilcene High School Principal Sean Moss said in an interview Tuesday morning that teachers are working with students who return after isolating.
Allen contracted COVID about a month and a half ago, he said. His was a mild case; he stayed home from school for two weeks.
During the walkout, Allen’s classmates complained not only about lack of support from school staff, but also about what they see as too-tight restrictions on sports participation. The students also lamented the divides on campus between the vaccinated and the unvaccinated.
Student body president Bishop Budnek, 19, added that he and his classmates may continue their walkout through this week.
Another group of students watched from the sidewalk several yards away.
Among them was Rhiannon Chapman, 16.
“This started with a good point, that students need more support,” she said. But the complaints have spilled over, she believes, into unfounded claims.
Some of her classmates say they’re “oppressed because they’re not vaccinated,” Chapman said.
She doesn’t believe that’s happening.
“They’re grasping at straws,” she said.
Amid the ongoing pandemic, “the [school] staff is doing the best they can,” she added.
Moss, for his part, said he and his staff speak regularly to one another about how to do better for their students.
Teachers seek to give ample time for making up missed assignments, the principal said.
When youngsters return after illness, the school staff aims to create individualized plans to help them complete their schoolwork. That has included before- and after-school meetings with students, he added.
“We’re going to work with every single student to get them caught up,” Moss said.
“We’re going to provide all of the support that is needed. We’re committed to that.”
At the same time, he said, students must also do their part.
Moss posts weekly updates of COVID numbers in Quilcene’s schools. Currently, 10 students are isolating after a positive test. Two more are in quarantine after a close contact.
So far this school year, 74 of the district’s 218 students have contracted COVID.
Among the district’s 64 staff members, two are home with the disease this week. A total of 20 staffers have tested positive since the school year began, according to the update at www.qsd48.org.
Regarding Tuesday’s walkout, Quilcene School District Superintendent Frank Redmon said it’s important to him to respect students’ First Amendment rights. Peaceful protest, he said, is part of learning to live in a democracy.
“We don’t mind civil disobedience,” he said.
Jefferson County Senior Reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3509 or email@example.com.