Vast majority of Rochester teachers say remote learning should continue
An overwhelming majority of teachers in the Rochester City School District say they want to continue with all-remote learning through the end of January.
Of the union members who responded to a recent survey, 81% have concerns about returning to in-person classes as the COVID-19 pandemic merges with flu season.
Rochester Teachers Association President Adam Urbanski said he knows remote teaching and learning is difficult for students, teachers, and their families, but the inconveniences pale compared to the alternative.
"The alternative is to put the lives of children and their educators in danger, and by extension, the health and the lives of the families of the children and the educators in danger," he said.
Another consideration, Urbanski said, is the teachers' belief that the district could not do enough to protect students and teachers from COVID-19 if they returned to their classrooms even part of the time.
Of the union members who responded to the RTA survey, 75% said they do not have confidence that the district could provide and maintain a safe environment for in-person learning at this point in the pandemic.
"That's a huge majority of teachers lacking confidence in the district's ability to open safely," Urbanski said.
A spokesperson for the district said stakeholder focus groups are scheduled for this week. The district has not yet released the results of its own community survey on remote learning.
Urbanski said he expects to know more about the district's plans no later than Oct. 30, but he expects the RTA's input to be taken seriously.
"Especially since we have some indication that the district's own survey of teachers, parents, and students reaches a similar conclusion," he said.
The current plan is for remote learning to continue through the end of the first school quarter in mid-November.
Among the other RTA survey findings, teachers said their students have been very (18%) or somewhat (64%) engaged so far this school year.
Also, 61% said parents were somewhat supportive of their children, and 31% said parents were very supportive.
At the same time, 80% of the teachers who answered the survey said their students need additional support that they weren't getting. Urbanski said the most substantial concern was lack of WiFi access to the internet. The second-biggest concern was a lack of support for students who are learners of English as a second language.
Overall, Urbanski said even though it's more work and it takes more time to prepare for remote instruction, teachers now say they have the hang of it and feel better prepared compared to when they were forced to abruptly switch to online instruction in March.
Roughly half of the RTA's approximately 3,300 members responded to the survey.