ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — A student walkout was held Tuesday in St. Paul, with hundreds across the district demanding better COVID-19 precautions to stay in school.

Some of the St. Paul students in the group Minnesota Teen Activists, which organized the walkout, met Tuesday morning to announce their demands for the district, which include more KN95 or N95 masks in schools, tests for staff and students on campus and a better outline for transitioning to distance learning.

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Last week, the district said all St. Paul schools will remain open for in-person learning, as several other districts shifted online. The district says it’s handling the virus on a building-by-building basis.

Jerome Treadwall is one of the leaders of the walkout. He shared his experience of the setbacks students are facing since returning to the classroom after winter break.

“For example, at Washington High School, the first concern is that last week 1,000 students were not able to get to school due to transportation. In addition to that, Washington High School has about 40 to 30 teachers missing daily. So that means teachers who have to cover for those teachers are not adequate enough in that content area,” Treadwall said.

(credit: CBS)

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Some students told WCCO they prefer to learn in person, but they want better transportation, masking enforcement and additional testing options. Student Angela Nguyen says distance learning has also been tough.

“I didn’t understand … what I was supposed to do because it was just me learning online, also just and zooming through my assignments even though I’m not learning properly and engaging,” Nguyen said.

The district released a statement Tuesday morning, saying they fully support the students’ right to free speech and peaceful demonstration, but wanted to make it clear they are already taking extra steps to improve the health and safety of staff.

“As a district, it is our responsibility to ensure students who cannot stay home have a safe place to be, with access to food and support for online learning, as well as to provide essential in-person services for students receiving special education,” the statement said in part. “Therefore, if any schools move to virtual learning, it will include a requirement that all staff members at the affected site(s) who are not sick or in quarantine report to work.”

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The students with Minnesota Teen Activists say if their requests cannot be met immediately, they hope the district is open to sit-down negotiations with them to let the students’ voices and concerns be heard directly.