By Beth Germano

BOSTON (CBS) – Dozens of Boston Public School students walked out of classes Friday morning demanding a temporary return to online learning. They say schools in the midst of a surge in COVID cases are not safe.

At Boston Latin School, students walked out in small groups but had a unified message about the impact of the pandemic on their day-to-day learning.

“We’re already not learning as much. So many [teachers] are out. We should at least have an option to be online,” said one student.

An organizer told the school committee Wednesday night the protest was not directly aimed at the district but at the state and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

“In the morning, we have to stay in the dining hall and it’s super crowded every single day,” said student Leila Holland.

The teens want any remote learning days to count toward the required 180 days of learning.

Boston Mayor Michelle Wu says as many as 1,200 school staff are out due to COVID, while student attendance is around 73%. These students are worried beyond the classroom.

“I feel like I would rather be safe. I live with people who are immunocompromised then risk going to school every day,” said student Ash O’Brien.

Some students joined the protest by remaining home and some chose to participate in a webinar conducted by the Boston Student Advisory Council.

Participants were given a link and urged to contact the Governor’s office and state education officials about an online learning option.

Gov. Charlie Baker and DESE have pushed back on pressure recently to ease restrictions on remote learning.

“The rules here are pretty simple. We count in-person school as school,” Baker said earlier this month. “Under state law you are required to provide 180 in-person days of school each year. We expect every school and every school district to deliver on that 180 days.”

Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley issued a statement Friday afternoon saying she stood “in solidarity with the students.”

“I urge Governor Baker and Secretary Riley to heed their calls,” Pressley said. “All students and educators deserve to be safe and healthy in school. The Baker Administration’s refusal to provide much-needed flexibilities for schools facing record staffing shortages and surges in cases is dangerous, and they must reverse course.”

“We keep emphasizing that closing our schools and moving to remote is a last resort but it’s one were prepared for given there are COVID and pandemic challenges that affect staffing beyond our control,” Boston Mayor Michelle Wu told reporters Thursday.

In a statement, the Boston Public Schools said, “We will continue to listen to our students and families as we navigate this latest surge and the impacts it has on our ability to remain in person and deliver a quality education.”

Beth Germano