Students walk out of West County High School against name change

By Camille Escovedo, Staff Writer, SoCoNews, January 14, 2022

protest

Photo Camille Escovedo

West County High School (WCHS) students walked off campus Friday morning to boast WCHS pride and protest the school board’s vote to reinstate the Analy High School name.

Determined as ever and more organized than before, hundreds of students split into groups and marched with signs to different spots around downtown Sebastopol to rally with speeches and chants.

Organized by the new WCHS Activism Club, the demonstration was the second walkout planned by students to publicly weigh in on board decisions many argue have dismissed student voices and broken promises trustees made to the high schoolers.

Teens took to the intersection of Main Street and Bodega Avenue, where 17-year-old Hannah Berkheimer addressed passing cars and pedestrians with a megaphone.

“Through all our contributions, our relationships formed with one another, we have created something extraordinary here at West County. It is not just a name anymore,” she said. “It signifies our beginning, the family we’ve created, the reconciliation of the loss of both schools.”

Next, students headed to the Sebastopol Plaza. Student leaders stood by in neon safety vests and red and blue streamers drifted from the handrails up to the gazebo as speeches continued.

“The argument has always been ‘them versus us,’” said KatieAnn Nguyen, senior and activism club co-president. But as the semester went on, she declared from the main stage, students came to find their supposed Analy and El Molino rivals to be just like each other and formed a new community and identity. School became something to look forward to with new people and more extracurriculars, she said.

“It’s grown on you and you can’t deny that,” she said, stating that for many, school became something to look forward to with new people and more extracurriculars. Nguyen recounted the decision to reverse the school name, the first walkout that very next day where some may have cut class for the first time and acknowledged the weeks of planning for the Friday protest.

“You stand here because West County is worth the time,” she said. “Because West County is worth the blood, sweat and tears. Because West County is worth standing in the face of adversity for.”

Shortly after, the protesting students flowed through the Barlow and around the corner onto Morris Street, looping across the parking lot by Community Market back to the Sebastopol Plaza. Chanting continued on both sides of the street in front of the Whole Foods Market.

WCHS Activism Club co-president with Nguyen is Dylan Peña Pérez, the school’s student representative on the board of trustees. A flyer he provided SoCoNews ahead of the walkout included updated plans according to a recent county mandate.

The flyer announced there would be five locations with only 100 allowed at each, with notes on where bathrooms were available and a reminder to mask up and adhere to COVID-19 procedures. Students would be missing their third, fifth and seventh periods, the flyer stated, asking the high schoolers to remain respectful and keep from engaging with “hostile community members.”

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

This article was produced by SoCoNews. See more news at soconews.org