The Madison Area chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America applauds the students at Altoona High School who organized a walkout in response to a return to in-person learning in the middle of a global pandemic. We stand with them in their fight for a safe learning environment.
Students at Altoona describe close confines that prevent adequate social distancing and a lack of trust in an administration that failed to consult with students about the plan to return. Many high school students are under sixteen and are therefore still ineligible for COVID-19 vaccination, putting them at a heightened risk of contracting the virus. That risk is greater than ever as new, more contagious variants become dominant in the United States and as new COVID-19 cases are climbing again throughout Wisconsin.
Altoona High School administrators should listen to their students whose concerns about school reopenings are shared by leading epidemiologists, including those who once supported school reopening but have changed their minds due to the severity of the new COVID-19 variants. Our country and our state is on the cusp of a new wave of COVID-19 cases and unvaccinated students in crowded classrooms are directly in the line of fire.
Throughout the pandemic, Madison Area DSA has stood with people fighting to reject unsafe conditions, mainly workers in our region. We recognize the Altoona Student walkout as a part of this same struggle. No one should be forced to risk their health and safety or the health and safety of vulnerable family members for a paycheck – or for a grade. As socialists, we believe that people should have the right to collectively determine the conditions in which they work and learn.