WILMINGTON — Upon arrival at Wilmington High School, one can see a sea of brightly colored posters along the fence of the basketball court. Cries of “Let Us Play!” “Kids’ Mental Health Matters!” “Sports equals Good Mental Health!” and other such sentiments are hung along the fence. Though each poster is different, the message remains unanimous: “Bring back in-person school and sports.”
A vocal group of parents have continued the fight to advocate for in-person instruction in the Wilmington Public School District. These parents and students are unsatisfied with the way in which school is conducted in a post-pandemic world.
Wilmington is not the only town with unsatisfied parents, as these protests highlight a movement nation-wide by parents who want the reinstatement of in person instruction.
This group organized several protests, including one on Martin Luther King Day, which was covered by CBS Boston. These protests were organized on social media, such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
The protest happened at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 20, and lasted for a couple of hours. The small gathering of parents demonstrated COVID-safe protocol, such as social distancing between each other, and wearing masks.
The protestors chose the evening of Jan. 20 so they could be seen by the School Committee, who were convening that night for their 7 p.m. meeting. One of the parents was even scheduled to speak at the meeting, ready with a prepared statement, and her own research to back up her argument that, if done correctly, going to school in person can be done safely.
Though the passionate group was smaller than it was on Jan. 18, it consisted of parents from grades ranging from freshmen to seniors in high school, and sports from baseball to hockey. Protestors held more signs with messages like: “No more Zoom!” and “No More Google Meet!”
When asked about what they found to be wrong with their school guidelines, these parents expressed concern that their children simply aren’t interested in learning anymore, and staring at screens all day was severely impacting their mental health.
They also expressed concern and frustration over the lack of communication between the superintendent/school district and the parents. These parents believe that the schools are not being entirely honest about why they won’t reopen, citing CDC guidelines that allow schools to reopen safely, and wonder why the superintendent will not utilize these guidelines.
Additionally, parents expressed confusion as to why their kids were able to work at places such as Market Basket but not go to school, stating that school should be a much safer place for them than behind a store register. And if they’re not at school, they’re out with friends, which poses a higher risk of COVID-19 than they would be at when they’re at school
Wilmington Public Schools has been switching back and forth between fully remote and a hybrid model due to different circumstances within the district.
Since going online, the parents have expressed frustration that these students are not getting enough face to face instruction, and worry that they are not getting the recommended 36 hours of direct student to teacher interaction.
When asked about their thoughts on Superintendent Dr. Glenn Brand, these parents expressed great dissatisfaction, calling for his resignation if he did not reinstate in-person instruction.
When asked how many days would they reasonably like their kids at school in person, they agreed five days a week.
When the subject of Gov. Charlie Baker’s announcement of weekly pooled COVID-19 testing becoming available to schools and school districts, some of these parents were also hesitant as to whether or not they wanted their kids tested for COVID-19.
Finally, when asked what they would want to say to the School Committee and the superintendent, they simply said, “School is safe. Get our kids back into school, for the sake of their mental health.”
As everyone may be sick of remote instruction, and of COVID-19, it is important for everyone to stay safe and follow state and federal guidelines to ensure the safety of others, and to ensure that we get back to normalcy sooner rather than later.