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Santa Maria high schoolers protest virtual class attendance mandate

Posted at 7:27 PM, Nov 16, 2020

Students in the Santa Maria Joint Union High School District are now required to Zoom into class five days out of the week instead of three.

Students say they are not happy with the new changes so they organized a peaceful protest Monday afternoon outside the district office. Some say they're upset because the district didn't give them enough notice.

"Our district is not informing us or responding until November, less than a month before the end of the semester, and we were notified with less than a week before these changes would even take place,” said Eliot Baez, high school senior.

The new schedule change beginning Monday was shared with families last week.

It was a change that school district officials said was necessary after they were notified by the Santa Barbara County Board of Education their three-day-a-week virtual class model did not fulfill state requirements.

Some students reacted to the news by creating a petition and organizing a protest, stating this would affect them and their families in a negative way.

"A lot of us have other responsibilities such as taking care of siblings, supporting a family, attending to our mental health and these changes are taking away a lot of our opportunities to take care of these responsibilities,” Baez said.

Although the new schedule change is due to county requirements, school district officials said in a statement, “The decisions we have made as a school district have not been made without thoughtful consideration and information from different sources, including state and county guidance: student, parent and staff input and internal data including student attendance and achievement.”

Officials added that more interaction with teachers will benefit the students.

"We do know that the district is not the most powerful entity in this sense. As I said before, the state had made it known that these mandates would take effect all the way back in September and possibly earlier and here we are over a month later and we have very little time to respond to these changes," Baez said.

The schedule is expected to last for another three weeks and the district is planning on implementing a hybrid schedule after Christmas break depending on the local COVID-19 cases.