Editor’s note: This article was updated Feb. 23 to include comment from San Benito High School.
A folding table, lawn chairs and a laptop were all that three students needed to set up their own outdoor classroom in front of the San Benito High School administration building in Hollister. Freshman Peyton Evans, 14, organized the Feb. 22 protest to show her dislike of distance learning.
“I just want to be in school,” Evans said. “I don’t want to start a problem. I don’t want to start a social media war. I just want to be in school.”
Despite turning in her school work, she said she struggles to be motivated to excel in her work rather than just doing what is necessary to turn it in.
“I’m tired of just sitting in my room all day and I’m tired of not being able to see my friends and socialize with people,” she said.
San Benito High School began its distance learning program on March 30, 2020, in response to the county’s shelter-in-place order on March 18, which closed schools and other operations deemed not essential.
Schools in San Benito County are not allowed to open for in-person instruction because the county is in the purple tier of California’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy. Schools may reopen once the county has been in the red tier for five days.
Evans arrived in front of the school, located at 1220 Monterey Street, before 9 a.m., and was joined by another SBHS student, Conner Ortez, 16, and Hollister Dual Language Academy student Sharon Bocanegra, 11, around 10:45 a.m. While the students worked on their school work during the sunny morning, San Benito High School staff helped visitors at a booth nearby.
It’s important to open schools for in-person instruction, Ortez said, because he and many other students find distance learning difficult when there is less help and less communication between students and teachers.
“It’s much easier for students to learn, at least for me, with in-person learning,” Ortez said.
For Bocanegra, it was important for her to support returning to in-person instruction because she said students should not be taught from home. She added that though she doesn’t like to wear face masks, she would wear one if she could go back to class.
San Benito High School Principal Adrian Ramirez, on behalf of the administrative team, said the school respects the diverse perspectives within the community and appreciates that the students and parents that demonstrated did so in a peaceful manner.
“As we continue our remote instruction and navigate a potential transition to any form of in-person learning for our students, we will also continue to collect feedback from our stakeholders, including our students and parents,” Ramirez said.
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