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RCSD decides to go with all remote learning for start of school year

There was a big change announced Thursday regarding the start of the upcoming school year for the Rochester City School District - all classes will be held remotely for at least the first ten weeks of the school year.

Originally, like a lot of districts, RCSD was going to use a hybrid model -- a combination of in-class and remote learning. For RCSD, that hybrid model would have been used for Pre-K through 4th grade; students in 5th  through 12th grades would have continued with distance learning unless they were in specialized programs.

In aletter posted on the RCSD website, Superintendent Lesli Myers-Small said that all students will begin school on September 14 remotely. She said that district officials carefully considered Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s expectations around testing and contact tracing, particularly the additional planning with the health department that would be needed, as well as input from the community and the experiences of other urban districts around the country.

Myers-Small said that officials realize remote learning is not easy, but said, “we are confident that our teachers, administrators, and support staff will continue to work hard to ensure that your children have the materials and supports necessary to be successful.”

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The superintendent said that the district will continue to monitor key indicators to determine if they can shift back to in-person learning. She hopes that can happen after the first ten weeks.

In a news release sent by RCSD on Thursday night, district officials said that the decision to utilize a 100 percent remote learning model was based on several factors, including the size of the district.  The statement said, "Most notably, the CDC has indicated there is increasing evidence that some racial and ethnic minority groups are being disproportionately affected by COVID-19."

District officials said they also listened to feedback from employees and families; many parents and caregivers are choosing the remote learning model over the hybrid model that the District had originally proposed. 

The Rochester Teachers Association, strongly pushed for a delay to in-person teaching, expressing concerns about the safety of students and staff. RTA president Adam Urbanski said, in a note to his members on Thursday, that teachers “do want to return to at-school and in-person instruction but only when it is safe to do so.”

Urbanski thanked the Superintendent Myers-Small and the district for working collaboratively to come up with the new plan.

Myers-Small said that the district will still be holding five virtual parent sessions that will focus on health and safety measures and how learning will take place. The first one is Saturday, August 15 from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m., with more information on the RCSD website.

Randy Gorbman is WXXI's director of news and public affairs. Randy manages the day-to-day operations of WXXI News on radio, television, and online.