Why This Redondo Union Student Walked Out Of Class

REDONDO BEACH, CA — A Redondo Beach high school student is sharing why he and more than 100 other students decided to walk out of their classrooms last week at Redondo Union High School, where a number of students and teachers have tested positive for COVID-19.

One of the main motivations for participating in the walkout is staff shortages on campus, Michael Lee-Chang told Patch.

"Personally, my concern is with teachers and staff members. They’re risking their lives to teach us and they might be in a classroom, and when most of them are at ages when they might be prone to the virus, are having to teach in these enclosed areas with students who might have COVID," Lee-Chang told Patch.

"Some teachers have to constantly tell students to put the mask over their nose," he added.

Lee-Chang is among students worried about the number of students and teachers who are exposed to the virus, and even met with school administrators to discuss the concerns last week.

As of last week, 442 students and 33 staff members tested positive for the virus in the last 14 days, he added. In one of his classes, more than 18 students were missing.

This week, the positivity rate among Redondo Unified School District students and staff reached 15.46 percent, according to Beach Cities Health District, which has stepped in to help local districts implement testing.

BCHD has ramped up COVID-19 testing in January with a new partnership, distributing at-home tests for students at Redondo Beach Unified School District, Manhattan Beach Unified School District and Hermosa Beach City Unified.

The only problem was that Redondo Beach students — even if they are 18 years old — had to come with a parent or guardian to pick it up between 3:30 and 5 p.m., Lee-Chang said.

"These are prime working hours [for parents] and that’s incredibly inconvenient," Lee-Chang said.

Not all students had parents available to accompany them at that time at the front office at RUHS. And Lee-Chang believes more can be done to help prevent the spread of the virus.

"Students should have the option of hybrid learning if they are uncomfortable being there," Lee-Chang.

Right now, the school continues to offer in-person instruction and enters its finals period. School officials gave the indication that shutting down is the last resort and only a directive that could come from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, he said.

But for seniors, this is a precarious time as they begin testing and apply to colleges.

"My college counselor is out right now and we’re in the midst of college applications right now," he said.

Although his family works in medicine and he doesn’t feel worried about himself, he wants to feel good about going to school.

"Some people think it should be required for students to have vaccines, others have varied opinions on masks," he said.

People are divided about what to do; but school administrators are urging students to take extra caution.

RUHS Principal Anthony Bridi shared a message with students last week, following the walkout.

"RUHS understands that students may be absent due to COVID-19 isolation or quarantine requirements," Bridi said. "We, your teachers, counselors, and administration, are here to assist with any required absences. My ask is that you do your part while on campus by masking indoors and outdoors, and effectively communicating with staff and your peers of upcoming preparations for mid-term exams."

Bridi encouraged students to reach out to staff for any questions or concerns.

Lee-Chang wants to see improvements overall.

"In a perfect world, I’d want to see the cases hit zero and I would hope that we could maintain their mandatory masking indoors at the least," he said. "It would be nice if students were given tests."

Until then, he says it's up to each student.

"I ask everyone to maintain a certain amount of personal responsibility," Lee-Chang said. "I think a sentiment that goes unacknowledged right now is this virus isn’t affecting just ourselves, but also the people near the people near us. I feel like some people have gotten a bit selfish in a way. It’s just not affecting yourself and the direct people you know, it’s really everyone around you."

This article originally appeared on the Redondo Beach Patch