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Remote learning keeps focus on instruction, says RCSD superintendent

James Brown
Rochester City School District Superintendent speaks outside of the Board of Education Friday.

After making the decision Thursday to have all students in remote learning environments, Rochester City School Superintendent Lesli Myers-Small said the decision makes it safer for everyone involved. She also said that it will allow staff to focus on teaching and learning, rather than constantly worrying about safety measures.

“(That) cannot be the case if our staff is focused on taking temperatures, sanitation, keeping students appropriately distanced, and contact tracing if there are positive cases,” said Myers-Small. “Our students deserve all our educators’ support and staff focused on the students’ educational needs.”

Among some of the reasons for making the move to all-remote learning includes the state’s testing and contact tracing requirements, feedback from the community, and reviewing what similar-sized districts around the country went through as they reopened.

Back in July, the superintendent said that some students would return to buildings part-time. Now, the earliest that could happen is November.

To prepare students for remote learning, , Myers-Small said all students will be given Chromebooks with internet access before the beginning of the school year. The computers are a gift from a nonprofit called the 1 million project.

Board of Education President Van White agrees with the choice; he said the city’s demographics inform his opinion.

“The city of Rochester ranks third in the nation in child poverty,” said White. “These are conditions that directly affect any decision related to this COVID crisis and how the district responds.”

White also said the district should be cautious about restarting in-person instruction, citing that Black and brown students make up much of the student population and those populations are higher risk for complications from COVID-19. 

Student teachers from SUNY Brockport will aid in remote instruction as well as reaching out to families of “disengaged students.” Myers-Small said teachers will do social emotional health checks to attempt to engage with those students.

Rochester’s R-Centers will also contribute to instruction. Elementary school students will be able to attend learning labs manned by city staff at 10 locations.

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.