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Dade: RCSD prepares for long-term distance learning and less state funding

Ryan Williamson

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Friday that schools in New York state should stay closed until at least April 15 to continue efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus. 

Rochester City School District Superintendent Terry Dade said Cuomo’s decision does not affect the district’s approach right now. 

“The extension by the governor takes us to April 15,” said Dade. “Which is just beyond spring break. So there’s not a whole lot of difference with the instruction that we will provide.”

But he said extensions beyond April 15 would force the district to implement a longer-term distance-learning plan. That plan’s backbone is based on teaching online in a district where 40 percent of students don’t have internet access

That’s why Dade is working on giving Chromebooks to all middle schoolers. Currently, the district offers every high school student one of those devices and a portable WiFi unit. Dade said he’s still working on solutions for elementary school students.

‘There’s siblings in households,” said Dade. “So if we have devices for 6-12 grade students, there’s a high likelihood that some of our younger persons will have access to Chromebooks.” 

Dade said he plans on meeting with Mayor Lovely Warren on Saturday to see what the city can do to help these students and the district on this and other matters, including social and emotional supports.

Cuomo also announced Friday that state education funding will likely be cut in this year’s budget due to the expenses racked up in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

He said the federal government’s stimulus program limits what the state can spend that money on.

"So we have about a $10 to $15 billion hole,” said Cuomo. “Federal government gave us zero, nada, niente, zilch. Those are all New York words. We’re going to have to cut education aid, because that’s the No. 1 expense." 

That means Dade’s draft budget for next school year could be off by at least $4.5 million. The district is also asking for $35 million in immediate aid to bridge its current budget shortfall. 

“If that were to occur, that we would not receive that full amount," Dade said, "I would have to revise the superintendent’s proposed budget for the board’s consideration as early as next week or the week following.”

Dade’s draft budget cuts more than 230 positions, including 193 teachers. The state's budget deadline is April 1.

James Brown is a reporter with WXXI News. James previously spent a decade in marketing communications, while freelance writing for CITY Newspaper. While at CITY, his reporting focused primarily on arts and entertainment.
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