Student protest

Adam Bakst

Greenwood High School seniors protest virtual learning in Wagner Park on Thursday afternoon after being asked by law enforcement to leave the Greenwood Leflore Consolidated School District’s service building on U.S. 82. The protesters include, from left, Keturah Allen, Amyia Peoples, Za’daija Stasher, Raisean Moody and River Brownlee.

After a group of Greenwood High School seniors protested the implementation of their virtual learning curriculum, the school is planning to study their complaints further.

Approximately 25 members of the GHS Class of 2021 gathered Thursday at the Greenwood Leflore Consolidated School District’s service building on U.S. 82 and then Wagner Park to express their discontent with the curriculum and its delivery.

A meeting is now being planned for 2 p.m. Friday for parents and Greenwood High administrators to try to address these issues. A location hasn’t yet been determined.

“It has been unorganized chaos since day one,” said student protester River Brownlee. “The teachers don’t really know how to navigate the websites we are on, and everyone is having bad connections.”

The students said their top three issues are an abundance of unnecessary classes and assignments, constant internet issues and confusing distance-learning procedures.

“Virtual learning is stressful,” said Amyia Peoples. “Most of my classmates have jobs, have siblings and have more important things to do than sitting at a computer all day not learning anything.”

Peoples also added that she fears her GPA will drop because she does not think she is getting a proper education. “I would rather be at school in a class of six, actually learning something, then being at home learning nothing,” she said.

All schools in the district have been operating online for the month of August, with a tentative plan to introduce a hybrid schedule on Sept. 8. This system would combine both distance and in-person learning.

Peoples mentioned the overabundance of work the students were receiving, saying it is not unusual for some seniors to receive upwards of 60 digital classroom notifications in an hour.

“They’re giving out eight classes with around three assignments each,” said  another student, Raisean Moody, adding that all these assignments are due within two to three hours after they are given.

Moody said the students went to the service building in hopes that they could speak with members of the school board but were never given an opportunity to even leave their cars.

The students said they convened at Wagner Park after Greenwood and school district police asked them to leave the parking lot.

“All of us were lined up (in our vehicles), peacefully. At the time we had no posters, no signs. Then, police came to our cars and told us to leave,” Brownlee said.

Greenwood Deputy Police Chief Marvin Hammond said the situation was easily handled. “Protesters saw police on the scene, and they left the area without incident,” he said.

Many protesters said they are good students who aren’t being lazy but are merely being overworked. They said they even waited for classes to be over before protesting.

Dr. Mary Brown, the superintendent, said the issues these students face are universal throughout the district and state.

“All GLCSD students, including high school seniors, have been scheduled to receive this requisite amount. This mandate is the same for all public schools in the state of Mississippi. We encourage all parents to assist the district in ensuring their children comply with these requirements,” Brown said.

“Students at all three high schools are currently enrolled in the same number of classes. Principals will meet to discuss schedules and expectations with students,” she said. “We encourage parents to assist us with ensuring students meet the expectations of the Mississippi Department of Education and virtual learning.”

In terms of the technical difficulties, Brown said the district has provided equipment to try to  ease this problem as well as it can.

“The district has provided students with Chromebooks and mobile hotspots. All hotspots have been upgraded to the unlimited data plan. As with any setting, there will be technical issues and other challenges,” she said.

Senior Lakiyah Williams said that after the protest, parents of GHS seniors contacted Nelson Howard, the school’s counselor, to set up a meeting. It is not known whether other school administrators or school board members will be involved.

Williams said now that adults are stepping in, she believes some needed changes can occur. “When parents get involved, things are more likely to change,” she said.

Brown said she encourages community involvement to help with the ever-changing situation.

“We encourage all parents and the community to work with us as we work to provide our students with options and opportunities to receive academic instruction during this pandemic,”she said.

Contact Adam Bakst at 581-7233 or abakst@gwcommonwealth.com. Twitter: @AdamBakst_GWCW

(2) comments

dejaque

If the students are peacefully protesting and not interfering with day to day operations of the District, how can they be forced to move off school district property? The school buildings and central office building are paid for and maintained by public taxpayer money. Besides, didn't Dr. Brown participate in an "educational protest" in 2014 on the front steps of downtown's central office when she and others were criticizing Dr. Greene (then superintendent) and the school board at the time? Interesting how people react when the shoe is on the other foot.

Hal Fiore

Not a good visual. Maybe if those girls demonstrated they knew how to wear a mask, they might be trusted to go back to school.

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