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Wednesday's walkout at Corvallis High School started gradually.

A few students here and there started walking out about 10 minutes before 10 a.m., the time students across the nation had picked to leave class as a way to demand action on gun control.

As the turn of the hour neared, the small clusters got bigger and bigger, with some appearing to be the size of an entire class, save a student or two.

By 10 a.m., the school was muted.

And starting outside on the football field where students gathered was a litany that would mark each of the protest's 17 minutes: the reading of the name of one of the 17 people killed in the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. The walkout marked the one month anniversary of the shooting.

Around 400 students at Corvallis High School walked out of class Wednesday, as did hundreds more at schools across the district as part of a nationwide protest against gun violence.

Reading names of victims of the shooting in Parkland, Florida, wasn’t all Corvallis High walkout organizers Julia Keon and Kari Gottfried did with the 17 minutes they had their classmates gathered on the football field: they also called on their classmates to call their congressional representatives, sign up for alerts about gun violence protests and gave them information about how to register to vote.

“This walkout is not a vigil. We are calling for action,” said Gottfried, a junior, to the crowd. “We don’t need more moments of silence. We need action.”

She said she hopes the national walkout convinces Congress that students are not joking.

“We will all be voting in a couple years, and we will vote out of office the people who oppose what we want,” she said.

Keon, also a junior, said the movement calls for three specific policies:

• Background checks on all gun sales.

• Banning military style weapons and high capacity magazines.

• Opposition to the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act, which would require states accept concealed carry licenses from other states, even if the license standards are lower there.

Keon said she hopes students would sign up for alerts from Students Demand Action and register to vote. Keon and Gottfried have also set up a text alert system people can sign up for to get information about local gun violence protests. To subscribe to that, text @enoughCHS to 81010.

Many students were prepared with signs for the protest.

“Gun Control = No School Shootings,” said one sign.

“Washington, please listen to us,” said another.

“Do your guns matter more than your children?” said another.

“Are we next?” said yet another.

Dozens of community members gathered on the sidewalk by the Corvallis High School football field to support the students, including Corvallis School Board members Sarah Finger McDonald, Sami Al-Abdrabbuh and Judy Ball. The board unanimously passed a motion at a meeting last week in support of the student protests.

Aaron McKee, Crescent Valley High School’s principal, said he didn’t have an exact count, but he estimated 400 to 500 students walked out of class to the school’s quad. This included both students from his school and students from 12 other schools who were visiting for a band festival at Crescent Valley, he said.

He added that the student organizers kept a close watch on time and everyone was back in class shortly after the 17-minute walkout ended.

“It was well attended and well done,” McKee said.

At Linus Pauling Middle School, another 400 students walked out of class to gather in the school’s commons, said Principal Alicia Ward Satey.

“The commons was quite full,” she said. “It was 17 minutes and then they went back to class.”

Satey said the students who organized it gave speeches in both English and Spanish.

Brenda Downum, the communications coordinator for Corvallis School District, said about 350 students walked out of Cheldelin Middle School, to the track. Like at other schools, she said, staff were there to supervise and students lead the effort, then returned to class after.

Brian Flannery, Philomath High School principal, said about 15 students walked out at his school.

“They gathered at the front of the school. Peacefully walked one time around the school, and finished out the 17 minutes of silence at the front of the building. They then returned to classrooms and were very respectful,” he said.

Elementary schools in Corvallis were not in session Wednesday, which was on the calendar as a weather make up day. 

Anthony Rimel covers education and can be reached at anthony.rimel@lee.net, 541-758-9526, or via Twitter @anthonyrimel.

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