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High school students protest ahead of school reopening vote for Winston-Salem/Forsyth system

High school students protest ahead of school reopening vote for Winston-Salem/Forsyth system

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Board members who attended a virtual meeting from the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School Education Building on Friday had to walk past a cluster of signs held by people trying to sway their vote.

High school students showed up to protest their lack of options for in-person learning. A contingent of about 60 stood in the lawn by Bethania Station Road with signs bearing messages such as “Equal Education for all students” and “Zoom < (is less than) A real Education."

Both of the school reopening plans considered by the board had ninth-through-12th graders learning mainly online. One, called Plan B, opened the door for at least one day a month for in-person socialization. The other, Plan C, puts all students online completely.

The school board, in an 8-1 voter later in the day, chose full-time remote learning for the first nine weeks of the school year. Members will reassess the situation after the nine weeks.

Luke Pike, a rising senior at East Forsyth, said he and the rest of the students hoped to make a final plea for a better split between a virtual and actual classroom.

“I already know my high school experience is going to be different because we had the last year cut off, and we might not have this year,” the 17-year-old said. “But it’s just the fact that I know I’m not going to struggle as much as some people will (while) being all online.

“It’s just the fact that there are going to be many people who struggle ... to learn that way. They’re not going to get the same education as they would just being in person.”

Pike plays lacrosse, as does his friend Ethan Bormann.

Bormann and Pike became part of the initial push to get more people to protest. They used Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat to spread around the plan. Bormann said that virtual class this spring snowballed into frustration. The lack of social time, the workload and overall snags built on one another.

“Remote learning last year was a failure,” Bormann said. “That’s the best light I can put it in. It was eight hours of busy work.

"For the tougher classes, someone getting their certified nursing assistant (certification), automotive maintenance class, AP calculus. You can’t learn that the way you should on a computer. And so we really need to be in class to work it out.”

Bormann is committed to play lacrosse at Anderson University in South Carolina. He already knows his next step. But he realizes that some of his friends might not have their future secured yet, and it will be difficult figuring that out remotely.

Pike said that, really, the high-schoolers just want a little more choice.

“If you don’t feel comfortable, if you don’t feel safe going back, then you have the opportunity to just learn completely online,” Pike said. “But if you feel comfortable and feel like that’s what’s best for you in terms of your education, you should be able to go back. And the safety precautions should be in place: masks, distancing, all that.”

ejoyce@wsjournal.com

@EthanJoyceWSJ

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