POUGHKEEPSIE – A small group of ninth and tenth graders skipped 7th-period class at Poughkeepsie High School on Friday to protest several unsafe and unsanitary conditions, according to the freshman that organized the walkout.
Ninth-grader Olivia Mima, the organizer, outlined a series of issues that she says are being neglected by the staff and district administration. “It’s November and we don’t have student IDs, lockers, or computers,” the student said. “There are no feminine products available for students in need, the ceilings leak when it rains, the bathrooms are torn apart, there’s no toilet paper, there’s no full-time nurse, and it’s unacceptable.”
Asked if she had brought her concerns to the building principal, Kellyann Royce, Mima admitted she had not.
Freshman protestor Adelyse Brewer drew attention to the lack of security staff at the facility. “There’s nowhere near enough security. Students just walk the halls all of the time and there are fights all of the time.”
The students, who were hand-in-hand blocking traffic on Forbus Street, were in danger of being struck by angry motorists who attempted to drive around them until encouraged to return to school property by Principal Royce. Once on school grounds, Royce told the students that their concerns can’t be addressed if the kids don’t tell her about them. “You need to come to me with your concerns,” Royce told them.
Schools Superintendent Dr. Eric Rosser told Mid-Hudson News that he has been meeting with groups of students over the past three weeks to listen to their concerns. One meeting was with middle school students, one with juniors and seniors, and a third with freshmen and sophomores. He said that the high school students discussed the conditions of the bathrooms and students admitted that some of the broken mirrors and missing soap dispensers are the results of students damaging them as part of the TikTok social media challenge where students destroy school bathrooms and record it on video, then upload it to the social media platform. “I told to the students that they have a certain amount of responsibility to help keep their classmates from destroying the bathrooms.”
Rosser said the recently concluded “Superintendent’s Student Advisory Panel” meetings resulted in more than 50 students sharing their experiences and concerns with himself and district leaders. He said, as a result, action is being taken to address the concerns. With regard to security staffing, the district leader added that on “Wednesday evening the Board of Education approved increasing the starting salary for safety monitors, something that has been a challenge in retention and recruitment. By doing so, Poughkeepsie is one of the highest-paying districts in Dutchess moving from the lowest-paid district. The agreement also provides opportunity for the district to hire part-time safety monitors to fill the gap when someone is using leave accrual and during busy times of the school day. The district has made progress in hiring safety monitors but also have been losing them due to other opportunities that pay more presenting themselves to them.”