Washington County families demand in-person school, sports
About 60 Banks High School students and parents marched in support for getting back to school and playing sports Monday night, Jan. 11, in downtown Banks.
The group gathered at the elementary school, then walked along Main Street on a dark and rainy night, holding lights and chanting in an effort to draw attention to their frustration over the state's pandemic restrictions that continue to keep them from the classroom and on the playing fields.
"This is really just a march for us to try and express that high schoolers, especially seniors, want to get back in school and to play sports," Banks senior Cameron Louie said. "We want to get back to our normal lives, and hopefully this can help explain where we're coming from and what we've missed."
The group marched from Trellis Way to the front of the Banks School District administration building, sang the school song, then followed that with a group rendition of John Denver's "Take Me Home, Country Roads," a song the town and student body regularly sings during and often after school sporting events.
Kara Littlejohn, a Banks resident and mother of three high school boys, participated in the march with her husband.
"I have three high school boys that haven't been in school since March, so we're ready to fight to get them back in," Littlejohn said. "We're here for school primarily, but secondarily sports is an issue as well. Some of these kids need sports to actually focus on school. It's one of the reasons for being here."
Banks High School principal Jacob Pence was inside the building during the relatively short demonstration. He said he sympathizes with how protesters feel.
"My heart goes out to these students who have been faced with extremely difficult conditions this school year," Pence said. "Many are learning from home in isolation from their friends, staff, and school, and they've have missed out on many experiences and events that we all look forward to each year."
It's those experiences that Louie said are dearly missed. A multi-sport athlete who still has high hopes for his teams this year, the senior said he's hopeful that this night's demonstration will make people think about the sacrifices that all Banks students, as well as athletes have and continue to make.
"I hope we can remind people of their times in high school and what they had, and maybe show them that we're missing all of that," Louie said. "As a kid I always looked forward to my senior year, and this is not what I was hoping for."
Littlejohn said that ultimately it's about kids' work in the classroom, but went on to say that in a lot of kids' case, it's the sports that keep them motivated to do that school work. Now, without the sports, she said it's troubling times for her and many others' kids in the same position.
"They're lacking structure, they're lacking motivation," she said. "I have a 17-year-old who's a football player, a 16-year-old who's a soccer player, and a 15-year-old who's also a football player, so they've always had structure with school and practice that kept them motivated to do well in school. They don't have any of that motivating them now, and it's been tough."
Pence understands and said he's encouraged to think Banks is inching closer to both in-person schooling and the resumption of school sports. But on top of that, he said he continues to be impressed with how students and the town of Banks are handling a truly difficult time.
"The students organizing, planning, and participating in this event are to be commended," Pence said. "What an important lesson for students to come together and share their voice in a public way. The support for each other and sense of community is something that makes Banks such a special place."
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