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RCSD announces plans to return to 5-day-a-week in-person instruction in September

The Rochester City School District will return to in-person learning five days a week beginning on Sept. 8, Superintendent Lesli Myers-Small said Thursday.

In a letter to families, Myers-Small noted that last week, the state Department of Health issued new guidance decreasing the social distancing requirements in classrooms from 6 to 3 feet. She said the district is now moving forward with plans that will allow more students to return to in-person instruction.

Myers-Small said that if the state removes all restrictions, students will attend school in person as they did before the COVID closures.

The superintendent said that beginning Sept. 8, all students in prekindergarten through 12th grade will receive direct instruction from their teachers five days week. The district will offer a 100% remote learning option to accommodate families who do not feel comfortable sending their children back to school in person.

If families choose the remote option, they must respond by May 7, or their children will be automatically enrolled as in-person students.

Last month, Myers-Small announced that while some area school districts were pushing to increase the number of in-person school days this spring, RCSD would remain in its hybrid model, and would instead plan for the next school year.

Myers-Small said the district had a task force that talked with a number of key stakeholders in Rochester in advance of the decision to reopen in-class instruction, five days a week, starting this September.

“They developed some plans and they met for a few meetings, and then they went out and had conversations with different focus groups which included students, all of our bargaining units, principals, in particular, parents and caregivers and received some additional information and so we feel really good about meeting forward,” Myers-Small said.

But Adam Urbanski, who heads up the teachers’ union, feels that district officials have not taken enough time to talk with leaders of the four unions representing district staffers.

“We have requested two things, one is additional details on how this would work and clarification; and secondly, we formally reserve the right to negotiate the impact of that decision on the members that we represent.” Urbanski said that teachers want very much to get back into the classroom, as long as it's safe.

Myers-Small said that with some RCSD students having been out of school for more than a year, there are a number of them who are probably eager to get back into the classroom. She did emphasize that these plans could change depending on any new guidance from the state or the county.

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.