As schools across Texas have reopened, the debate over COVID-19 safety and health measures has intensified to a fever pitch. Amidst this chaos two students in the Frisco ISD school system, upset with the lack of any directives at their high schools, took matters into their own hands with a petition calling on the school district to implement COVID-19 protocols.
Katherine Shaw and Srinath Nandigam, who attend different high schools in Frisco, met one another through an association known as Students for Equity through Education. As Shaw and Nandigam returned for in-person classes at Heritage High School and Centennial High School, respectively, they were disturbed by a lack of measures meant to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Though many school districts are defying an executive order from Greg Abbott banning masking requirements, Frisco ISD is not. In an interview with Texas Signal, the high schoolers described their frustrations and how it led them to create a petition calling on Frisco ISD to institute basic health guidelines like requiring masks and conducting contact tracing.
According to Nandigam, he was in a classroom when another student was informed that they tested positive for COVID-19. The student, who was not wearing a mask, promptly left but it was still a troubling site for Nandigam, who then started to look further into what was happening across Frisco. Within the first week of in-person classes, there were over 650 active cases across Frisco ISD. “That’s more cases than an entire country,” said Nandigam. “We’re comparable to Iceland and the Cayman Islands at this point.”
As of Monday afternoon, Shaw and Nandigam’s petition on Change.org had more than 1,700 signatures. The petition also notes the differences between Frisco ISD and Plano ISD, which is also in North Texas but does have a mask requirement on school campuses. Plano ISD has thirty percent fewer COVID-19 cases than Frisco ISD.
Both Nandigam and Shaw also have choice words for the governor and attorney general. “It’s very strange that they are working very hard to not ensure our safety,” said Shaw. “I don’t understand why something about our health has become so political.”
For now, Nandigam and Shaw are pushing for as many people as possible to sign their petition. On Twitter, it’s been shared by former congressional candidates Julie Oliver and Lulu Seikaly, for whom Nandigam previously interned. The two students are hopeful that the petition will also drive community members to attend a Frisco ISD school board meeting on September 13.
Ultimately, they hope their actions prompt some new decisions from the school board. “It’s ridiculous because the Frisco ISD board is bending towards Abbott’s will. They are putting the entire community at risk,” said Nandigam.
Photo: Jena Ardell/Getty Images
A longtime writer and journalist, Jessica was thrilled to join the Texas Signal where she could utilize her unique perspective on politics and culture. As the Features and Opinion Editor, she is responsible for coordinating editorials and segments from diverse authors. She is also the host of the podcast the Tex Mix, as well as the co-host for the weekly SignalCast. Jessica attended Harvard College, is a onetime fitness blogger, and has now transitioned to recreational runner (for which her joints are thankful).