WINSTON, Ore. -- A now-former Douglas High School student is speaking out after leaving the school over concerns staff are not doing their part to keep students safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sophomore Kaitlynn Pruitt told KEZI 9 News that she started her first day of in-person learning on Tuesday. She said she was horrified by the lack of social distancing and mask wearing inside the school.
“Some of the desks in the classrooms were less than three feet apart,” she said. “During lunch, people would crowd together and eat lunch without masks on.”
Pruitt said she then took her concerns to Principal Craig Anderson and other staff members.
“He said he would tell teachers to enforce social distance, but I didn’t see very much social distancing,” she said.
Pruitt said she unenrolled from the school Wednesday morning.
Earlier this week, the Winston-Dillard School District was given the green light to reopen for in-person instruction under an exception from the Oregon Department of Education that labels the district as rural. This means the metrics required for the district to hold in-person instruction are now less restrictive than the 10 or fewer cases per week required for other districts.
Instead of reopening for full-time in-person learning, school officials said they opted for a hybrid learning plan. Under this plan, the students are alternating between in-person and distance learning. This is due to construction at the school and hopes of reducing the risk of spreading the virus.
However, Pruitt said it’s not enough.
“Kids my age should be really cautious about things like this because you're kind of gambling with your life in a sense,” she said.
In a statement, district officials told KEZI 9 News said they are adhering to the operational blueprints required by the state, which includes sanitation protocols, mask wearing and social distancing. They also said a big part of enforcing these practices is educating the students on the need to comply with the guidelines.
Pruitt said she will continue her sophomore year through an online alternative program. However, she said she is speaking out to be a voice for people who are too afraid.
“I feel like a couple of them just don’t want to come out and say it out of fear of rejection,” she said.