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Some Rochester school students may start the new school year with remote classes

The shortage of school bus drivers is a nationwide problem, but it’s having a particularly acute impact on the beginning of school in the Rochester City School District.

That’s a point that Superintendent Lesli Myers-Small made during an emergency school board meeting on Friday, as she suggested a plan that would have students in grades 9 – 12 start out the school year with a virtual model.

Myers-Small said that the district is down 78 bus drivers, and while officials are still committed to having students back in class, full-time, this is an option they will need to consider.

The superintendent is proposing that school for all students next week start a day later, so it would start on Thursday, September 9.

Pre-K through 8, would be in-person, but most students in grades 9 – 12 would have remote learning, until the situation with getting more bus drivers can be resolved.

Students in grades 9 – 12 who are in specialized programs would have in-person school starting September 13.

The idea of going remote, even if it’s only for part of the school year, upset many of the people who spoke up at school board meeting, including East High student Sarah Adams who got emotional when she addressed the board.

``We can’t keep doing this online stuff.  We can’t.  We can’t keep doing it. We have to figure something out,” Adams said.

Parent and teacher assistant Ebony McCarthy also has big problems with remote learning.

``I’m online, I can’t reach out and tell them it’s going to be okay. I can’t go to them from the computer and say ‘you hungry?’ ‘You want something to eat today?  I can’t reach them!" McCarthy said.

Some board members, including Beatriz LeBron, pushed for a two-week delay for the start of school to try and find some solutions.

There will be an emergency work session of the school board Sunday, at 6:30 p.m. to talk about the transportation situation. There will not be opportunity for public comment at the meeting, but the meeting will be livestreamed via the RCSD’s Facebook and YouTube pages, and on the District’s website at:

Myers-Small said on Saturday that she is still hopeful more bus drivers can be found and that the district will not have to start out with remote learning.

Nothing has been finalized yet, but officials are hoping they will be able to let parents and other caregivers know by Sunday what the start of school will involve.

Alex Crichton is host of All Things Considered on WXXI-AM 1370. Alex delivers local news, weather and traffic reports beginning at 4 p.m. each weekday.
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.