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Saturday, February 24, 2024
Feb. 24, 2024

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Shahala Middle School students protest schedule changes, budget cuts

Over 50 students walk out, asking for more say in decisions

By , Columbian staff writer

Dozens of students from Shahala Middle School walked out Monday morning in continued protest of Evergreen Public Schools’ recently proposed budget cuts and changes to bell schedules for next year.

The protest — which lasted from about 8 to 9:30 a.m. and featured 50 or so students supervised by staff while on school grounds — was the second organized walkout by Shahala students this month.

Sophie Snead, a seventh-grade student and protest leader, said she again got students involved Monday to echo frustration that students weren’t included in any dialogue about next year’s potential changes, namely start times.

“There’s older students who have siblings that go to elementary school, and (next year) elementary kids get out earlier than their middle school and high school siblings, so parents won’t be able to rely on older kids to pick up or take care of kids while they’re at work,” Snead said Monday, with the cheers of fellow students and honking car horns in the background. “It causes a lot of issues, and Evergreen hasn’t even worked out all these things are going to affect families next year.”

Per the schedule changes, which the district unveiled in March, middle schools would start more than 90 minutes later, with schools starting at 9:35 a.m. next year. High schools would see their schedules pushed back just five minutes, with schools starting at 8:45 a.m. next year.

A major point of Evergreen’s push to move start times back for middle and high school students was an effort for teenagers to get much-needed sleep, a goal the district backed with nationwide research studies. Snead, however, said she conducted her own research at Shahala.

“Naturally, I had to ask how many kids are just going to go to bed later if school starts later,” Snead said. “And about 70 percent said they would go to bed later.”

Parents and staff react

Evergreen responded to the protest Monday with a statement that’s matched previous student-led efforts: a sentiment of support, so long as it remains productive.

“Staff members were present during the protest but gave students space to express themselves. We support our students making their voices heard about issues that impact them. Students who participated were marked as absent for classes they missed,” said a note from a district spokesperson.

Snead said a larger number of students engaged in productive protest on Monday than the last demonstration, which was encouraging. Some students, as has happened before, took the protest as a chance to miss out on class, which prompted some staff to encourage those students not to take part.

Lisa Snead, Sophie’s mother, said she remains proud of her daughter for organizing another event like Monday’s.

“This is not Sophie’s first time caring about something,” the older Snead said. “As parents, I certainly don’t want to tell my child to be quiet and sit idly when you feel passionately about something. We’re proud of her. She has big dreams, and who are we to stand in her way?”

Snead’s mother also agreed with many of her daughter’s sentiments and felt that the district should have done much more to consider the opinions of its own stakeholders before making overarching decisions, in addition to referencing national research.

“Parents are frustrated, too. I’m not a working parent, so I have plenty of time to drive my children around and take them to places, but I know that is not true for all parents,” she said. “Other districts (we’ve been in) never made big decisions without larger polling. It’s like pulling the rug out from under people.”