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New Westminster students stage ‘die-in’ over COVID-19 protocols at schools

Last Updated Sep 24, 2020 at 12:18 pm PDT

New Westminster Secondary School (Courtesy Google Maps)

New West student stage 'die-in' because they say their concerns around COVID-19 protocols haven't been addressed

Students from New Westminster Secondary School held the walkout Tuesday

A group of around 30 students spoke about their demands regarding COVID-19 safety before pretending to be dead

NEW WESTMINSTER (NEWS 1130) – Students claiming their concerns around COVID-19 protocols haven’t been addressed by the school district have staged a “die-in” to get their point across.

Elena Massing, a Grade 11 student at New Westminster Secondary School, was one of the students behind the walkout on Tuesday.

She says students recently left a meeting with administrators unhappy over how concerns around masks, crowds, and mental health supports would be handled.

“We figured we’d have to take a more drastic measure to get their attention and that’s how this whole die-in started,” she tells NEWS 1130.

At the protest, a group of around 30 students spoke about their demands regarding COVID-19 safety before pretending to be dead in front of the school district’s building.

Their main demands are around masks, which are mandatory in common areas but not within classrooms, according to provincial guidelines.

“We also wanted funding for mental health that is equally accessible to everyone. Our school for this year has only instated one new counsellor which just isn’t enough for a student body that large. We have just over 2,000 kids,” says Massing, who also cites overcrowding as a concern, both schools and on buses.

Massing is advocating for staggered exit times, longer breaks, and more frequent buses to solve some of these issues.

She and the other students hope the protest gets the attention of higher-ups, like the province and TransLink, who have control over masking policies and buses.

“I’ve had a lot of teachers reach out to me saying that they were very happy this event was organized. One of our goals with this event was to advocate for teachers as well,” says Massing.

The students behind the die-in say they will plan their next action depending on the response of the school district and superintendent Karim Hachlaf.

New Westminster Secondary has already reported a case of COVID-19. The district says someone who tested positive was at the school on September 15, 16, and 17.

For more school information amid the COVID-19 pandemic, click here.

-With files from Vanessa Doban