At Masuk, Jockey Hollow: Schools’ plans for National Walkout Day

The latest school shooting in Parkland, Fla., has young people throughout the country seeking to make their voices heard on national issues — and that is no different in Monroe.

Students across the nation are preparing to participate in the National School Walkout — a protest in which students will walk out of schools in hundreds of locations countrywide — on March 14. The National School Walkout is to begin at 10 a.m. and last 17 minutes to honor the 17 students and staff members killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., on Valentine’s Day. The walkout is part of a movement spurred by student survivors of the Parkland, Fla., school shooting asking for stricter gun laws.

Monroe students in both Masuk High School and Jockey Hollow Middle School will also participate, but instead of walking out, these youngsters will be staying in — voicing their concerns to and asking questions of local and state officials, in person at the high school and in letter writing at the middle school.

“Both events are age-appropriate and really address getting the students’ voices heard,” said school Superintendent John Battista. “Hats off to these two administrators for creating programs that will be truly meaningful for the students.”

Masuk High Principal Joseph Kobza told the Board of Education Monday that after the Parkland, Fla., school shooting last month, student leaders approached him about holding a walkout on Feb. 21, the day after the district returned from winter break.

“When I talked to some of the kids who wanted to organize (the walkout), they said, ‘We want people to hear us. We want people in power to know that we are upset, and we want these issues addressed,’” said Kobza. “I said, ‘If that’s what you want to do here, then walking down to the football field, walking around and not really having a clear message may not best way to express that.’”

Masuk High students are seeing students across the country advocating for themselves, according to Kobza, which is exciting but needs to channeled in the right way — which led to planning a student forum on March 14 at 10 a.m. in the school gymnasium.

Kobza said the school has asked school administrators, First Selectman Ken Kellogg, police Chief John Salvatore, and state Rep. J.P. Sredzinski, among others, to attend. Students will be welcome to voice their concerns and ideas for solutions and to question those in attendance.

“We also know this is a sensitive topic for some students,” said Kobza, “and there may be some who may not want to participate, so we will have a place in the school for them to go if they so choose.”

Kobza said the forum will also act as a civics lesson of sorts, since he has asked the town’s registrars of voters to attend to aid in registering students to vote.

At Jockey Hollow, Principal Jack Ceccolini said his students would be participating in advisories on March 6 — the focus “surrounding reassurance and awareness on the part of the students.

“Reassurance from the standpoint of safety, not focusing on the violence that has gone on, but letting them know that events over a number of years have led us to having different safety procedures and drills at our school,” said Ceccolini. “A portion of the advisory will be reviewing our safety protocols as a means of reassuring the kids that they are safe at school.”

Ceccolini said the advisories would also let students know how they can share their voice in a democracy. Students will receive a brief overview — with further, expanded discussions in the ensuing social studies classes —  on activism throughout history, going back to the American Revolution and the Declaration of Independence up to the 1960s and today.

Ceccolini said this focus will continue on March 14, when there will be a follow-up advisory during which students will be given the opportunity, if they wish, to write to a congressperson or town official about any topic.

Ceccolini said there will be no specific discussions on gun violence, especially in the sixth grade advisories, but those issues may come up with the seventh and eighth grade advisory sessions. The advisories are in small groups divided by grade.

Other Business

  • Members of the Masuk High Political Action Club requested formation of a committee — made up of teachers, parents and students — focused solely on student parking at the high school. Club members told the Board of Education that the $125 parking place fee is higher than in many districts — with seven districts having no fee and another seven districts charging less than $100. They stated that Masuk is “at the higher end of the spectrum, and students simply have concerns as to why.” The students did not ask for the Board of Education to lower the parking pass fee but instead requested that a committee of teachers, parents and students be formed that would to handle these specific parking concerns.
  • Assistant Superintendent Dr. Jack Zamary acknowledged the donation of a Makerbot Replicator Z18 3D printer, valued at $6,000, from Monroe resident John Skidmore. Zamary said the printer has been added to Masuk High School’s CAD and Imaging Lab.
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