Citing COVID-19 concerns, students to walk out of class at Montreal high school

Students at a Montreal school walked out of classes on Thursday, saying they don't feel safe as COVID-19 numbers soar.

Some of the main concerns of students at Lasalle Community Comprehensive High School involve poor ventilation and social distancing. They started a petition calling on the government to loosen restrictions on online learning.

"I feel kind of unsafe because they also tell us that we don't have to wear our masks in class when we're not really far away from each other. we're not socially distanced at all," said a student who wished to remain anonymous. 

They feel they shouldn't have to go to school while their city is in a red zone on the government's regional alert system.

"We really need the option for online learning because some people don't want to put their families at risk," a student said.

"To be honest, it is a little dumb that you have to go to a doctor to do online school."

The walkout was staged by a 16-year-old student named Lily Rowe, who launched the online petition.

"Legault posted last night that you can't go into public areas or you'll be fined. But school is a public area because you're crowded, gathered in groups of random people," she said.

Many of the students say they're confused about why the rules on gatherings have changed, but classrooms of 20 to 30 students are still allowed -- in rooms that are often crowded and stuffy.

"Just because a room may not have a window that opens to the outside, it doesn't mean the room isn't ventilated," said Cindy Finn, the director-general of Lester B. Pearson School Board. "So in that particular building we have what we call mechanical ventilation which means there's a system that forces air from the outside, goes through the vents, and then the air that's inside is then expelled to the outside."

The school's commissioner said they agree with the students, saying the government is "being too restrictive and should be open to more online learning for students that fear for their safety. We cannot rebuild the school's ventilation systems, but we can offer the option of online learning to students that do not have a doctor's note."

The students were given clear rules about the walkout -- wear a mask, go straight home, and write their elected officials about why they're walking out.

The ministry of education didn't respond to CTV News' question about how many letters it received since the walkout.

The province said this week that for now, there are no plans to implement full-time mask-wearing rules in schools. 

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