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22 RCSD schools to remain remote for at least another week

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Rochester City School District Superintendent Lesli Myers-Small said Monday that 25 of the district’s 47 schools will return to in-person learning by Wednesday.

But she said due to staff shortages, 22 schools will remain in remote learning until Tuesday, Jan. 18.

Students who attend those schools are expected to continue to rely on platforms like Google Classroom and Seesaw with the computers provided to them by the district.

“Certainly, teaching and learning is our job and our business. I’m equally concerned about the social-emotional health of our scholars,” Myers-Small said. “I know that there might be some adjustments and things aren’t business as usual. This has really upended a lot in our district.”

In a statement, RCSD administration said that the district will monitor staff absences, and when there are more absences than can be covered “to safely educate and transport” students, the affected schools, if not the entire district, would adjust to remote learning. Parents and guardians would be informed as those changes occur.

“We are working amongst many, many uncertain factors which makes us have to make these quick pivots,” Myers-Small said. “I recognize that this is a challenging time for us, but we also know that challenges are flipsides of opportunities and we have many opportunities as we move forward to bring our scholars back to in-person learning.”

Adam Urbanski, president of the Rochester Teachers Association, said Monday that he opposes the district’s decision and would rather all schools remain remote until after the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday on Jan. 17.

“It never ceases to amaze me how the superintendent and this administration of the City School District always find a way to make a tough situation more chaotic, more confusing and less sensible,” Urbanski said. “They make decisions without any input from their employees. There seems to be disregard if not disdain for what the teachers think.”

Claire Labrosa, a teacher with Rochester Organization of Rank-and-File Educators (RORE), said she was disappointed that there was no mention of increased safety measures. She would like to see all staff and students provided with KN95 masks and given a COVID-19 test before re-entering school buildings. She also said high-risk students and staff should be given the option of remote learning.

Urbanski said that as teachers are required to teach remotely from the school buildings, multiple teachers have had to conduct classes from their cars in school parking lots, citing logistical challenges and a lack of heat in the buildings.

“While our students are remote, the superintendent has directed all staff to remain in person, which really disregards the fact that, number one, they seem to have turned off or turned down the heat drastically,” said Labrosa. “So it’s not safe to teach because it’s too cold.”

Urbanski said he filed a class-action grievance on Friday, Jan. 7, against the district regarding those conditions.

“I have never seen this level of incompetence disconnected from the realities of the schools, and contempt for the employees, especially the teachers,” Urbanski said. “It’s really outrageous and it’s really unfortunate.”

The district declined comment, stating that it is an ongoing legal matter.

According to RCSD, the following schools will remain in remote learning:

  • Virgil I. Grissom School 7
  • Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. School 9
  • Anna Murray-Douglass School 12
  • Children’s School of Rochester 15
  • Enrico Fermi School 17
  • Henry Hudson School 28
  • John James Audubon School 33
  • Dr. Louis A. Cerulli School 34
  • Andrew J. Townson School 39
  • Helen Barrett Montgomery School 50
  • Montessori School 53
  • Northeast College Preparatory High School
  • World of Inquiry School 58
  • Edison Technology and Career High School
  • Franklin Lower and Upper Schools
  • Joseph C. Wilson Wilson Magnet High School
  • Monroe Upper School
  • Northwest Junior High at Douglass
  • Rochester Early College International High School
  • Rochester International Academy
  • School of the Arts

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Updated: January 10, 2022 at 3:06 PM EST
An earlier version of this story quoted RTA President Adam Urbanski saying that families and staff learned about Monday's developments via media reports, not directly from the administration. The Rochester City School District spokesperson says "an email to all staff and calls/emails to families went out prior to the superintendent speaking to the media."