ROUND ROCK, Texas - On Sunday, Keiawnna Pitts followed in the footsteps of her high school senior as she rallied in front of the Governor’s Mansion.
"Our kids are speaking out," said Pitts, a Round Rock ISD parent. "So here I am trying to do my part now after seeing my daughter’s courage."
Pitts referred to a student protest that took place on Thursday. Students walked out of class to protest current COVID-19 protocols that are in place.
On Sunday, members of grassroots organization Access Education RRISD brought up similar concerns, hoping to get the attention of state leadership.
"We’re here asking the Texas Education Agency, we’re asking the governor, and we’re asking the school districts to do something," said Pitts.
They’re concerned over the number of COVID cases that are leaving students without teachers.
"Even before the surge there was a big shortage of teachers," said Krista Laine, president of Access Education RRISD.
Laine knows this firsthand as a parent of two middle schoolers. She said the top priority has been wrongly placed on keeping schools open – no matter the cost.
"I want the highest priority to be educating students and creating an environment where they feel they are safe enough to relax and learn and enjoy it," she said.
Earlier in the pandemic, schools were able to go fully virtual and still get funding, but that is no longer the case.
Under Senate Bill 15, signed by Governor Abbott in September, the number of students receiving remote instruction must be capped at 10% in order to continue to receive funding.
However, Laine and other parents argued that even a temporary pivot to virtual learning could help slow down the spread and give schools a chance to catch up.
And the tools are there.
"We now know how to log in virtually and reduce the number of kids in schools for a brief period of time during the surge, and we’re not using that," said Laine. "I want the TEA to start offering options."
Other concerns brought to attention Sunday included no enforcement of mask-wearing and a lack of testing opportunities provided by the district.
A statement provided by Round Rock ISD earlier in the week said the following:
"We continue to have a mask requirement in place, provide free testing at a district site (and are working on expanding testing opportunities), have upgraded air filtration throughout the district, and are not allowing visitors on campus. We will close campus if there are so many members out that we are unable to safely operate the campus. We close individual classes and switch to remote learning temporarily (as allowed by TEA) when there are a significant amount of epi-linked cases in one class."