January 15, 2013
About 50 Wasson High School students walked out of school Tuesday to protest the announced closure of the school.
Student leaders who had planned the walk-out said they cancelled it after school administrators threatened to suspend students who participated.
But five minutes later, more than 50 students came walking out of the school chanting "Wasson, Wasson, Wasson."
Student body President Caleb Clark, Jarod Hauner and Eddie Chavez, immediately tried to talk them out of it.
"We didn't want the whole student body to be suspended," Chavez said, noting that the protest was originally planned because "We feel that nobody has heard our voice. It was time to rise up and express how we feel."
Some of the students, including Clark, Hauner and Chavez, said they love Wasson, and they feel accepted and loved by students and teachers more than at other schools.
Alexandria Martinez, a junior, braved the cold despite a leg brace and crutches, saying that she's is a foster child who has already attended three different high schools. She said Wasson is the first one that she has been encouraged by teachers to excel.
"People are so accepting and loving," Martinez said. "Wasson is the school I want to finish high school at. A lot of kids here said that if they close the school, they're going to drop out."
Martinez said she didn't care about getting suspended. Freshman Joseph Lemme wasn't concerned about suspension either.
"I think they were just trying to threaten us so we wouldn't do it," he said.
At 10:15 another student came out of the school and told the crowd that if they returned to class, they wouldn't be in trouble. A few went back right away and by 10:30 a.m., the group had dwindled to a little more than 20 students.
According to District-11 spokeswoman Devra Ashby, about half the students that took part in the protest will face some sort of "disciplinary consequence." Ashby said as soon as the students walked out it was the same as skipping school. Some did take advantage of a "second chance" offered by Wasson administrators.
"About 25 returned to class with no consequences," Ashby said. "The others chose to become truant."
Chavez, Hauner and Clark said they met Monday with Glenn Gustafson of District-11 to share their concerns about a preliminary recommendation to close Wasson and two elementary schools. The recommendation was made at the Jan. 9 school board meeting.
Hauner said Gustafson talked to the students "like we were just numbers, not people," prompting plans for the walkout.
According to the 2013-16 District-11 utilization plan, public comment times have been set aside to discuss the recommendations that include potential closing of Wasson and Bates and Lincoln elementary schools.
Ashby said students should have taken advantage of public meetings 6-8 p.m. Tuesday at Mitchell High School and 6-8 p.m. Wednesday at Wasson.
Final proposals are expected to be presented to the D-11 board as a discussion item on Jan. 23. The board is expected to vote on the plan Feb. 6.