Debating the impact of walking out

Students gathered on the field during walkout on December 10. Photo by Addison Magrath / Editor-in-Chief.

With a number of teachers out of school due to air quality and mold sensitivity, students within the Westhill community have suggested that the air quality in school may not be safe. As a result, on December 10 at 8:21 am, approximately 500 students decided to leave class in a student-organized walkout as a demand for air quality testing and communication with the school community regarding air quality.

“I walked out because I want a change in this school. You have to stand up for what you believe in… I believe the staff and students should have a safe and clean learning environment, and this mold is preventing us from having that right,” Lisa Jagodzinski (’20) said.

Students walked out of school onto the football field to protest the lack of attention given to their concerns. Student leaders spoke clearly about their worries. They made demands for air quality tests and for repair and remediation of structural issues that may have caused the mold to form.

Some students are concerned because they have an allergy to mold and it impacts their health and comfort within the school.

“The mold makes me sick. It is a real allergy and it makes me cough,” Avery Burns (’22) said.

“What encouraged us was the fact that change needed to be made… We [believed] that we had no choice but to walk out because [we], the students, were suffering and no one was [listening]. By having this walkout, we sent waves throughout the district and [our voices] were heard. Will the Board of Education and the Mold Task Force do anything to meet our needs? Well, the answer is that they will have no choice but to fix our building in the safest way possible because we matter,” Marcello Staiano (’19), one of the walkout organizers, said.

While many students felt it was their duty to participate in the walkout, a significant number of students also chose not to walk out for varying reasons. Many did not want to participate because they did not want to risk the absences or because it was cold out. Others had strong thoughts about why the walkout was not worth attending.

“I did not walk out because there have been meetings about the mold and [the task force] is doing what it can to try and help. People want us to learn in a healthy environment, and that is what they are trying to fix. Walking out is not going to help the mold in our school. It might open people’s eyes to what is going on, but it will not change things right away,” Charlie Schwartz (’22) said.  

Some students did not walk out because they believe the mold already had enough attention. The Mold Task Force was formed on October 29, 2018 and holds public meetings every Wednesday at 6 p.m. on the fifth floor of the Stamford Government Center. They hold these meetings to address the needs, questions, and concerns of parents, school staff, and students and to discuss possible solutions. 

“I think that the kids were focusing on getting the air quality tested, but faculty already knew that it was something people were concerned with. They were trying to bring attention to something that already had attention,” Noelle Giordano (‘22) said.

The task force is trying to address concerns voiced by students, parents, and faculty by answering questions and concentrating their efforts on assessing and ridding the school of mold, or at least mitigating the effects. Their purpose is to develop a course of action for dealing with the mold and supervise its execution.

“I don’t think that the walkout was productive, and no one would handle the situation differently after, which is why I didn’t walk out,” Marjorie Molina (’20) said.

Regardless of whether they walked out or not, students believe the mold is an issue that needs to be taken care of.

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