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Rochester parents call for greater student support ahead of school budget vote

Chrissy Miller, a parent of a student at School 29, spoke in front of the Board of Education on Wednesday.
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Chrissy Miller, a parent of a student at School 29, spoke in front of the Board of Education on Wednesday.

From chronic absenteeism to student mental health and extracurricular enrichment — Student well-being was top of mind for parents and community members at a Rochester City School District public budget hearing this week.

Carmen Torres, parent leadership manager at the Children's Agenda, was one of seven people who signed up to speak in front of the city school board about the district’s proposed budget for the next school year.

“Across our district attendance rates are plummeting, posing a significant and significant threat to the academic success and well-being of our students,” Torres said on Wednesday. “As you delve into the budget priorities, it is imperative that you address this issue with the urgency it deserves.”

According to state data, more than half of all students in the district were absent for more than 10% of the time they were enrolled in the 2022-23 school year. That number was much higher, just a fraction under 72%, for high schoolers in the district.

Torres warned that the reshuffling of students during the reconfiguration plan could exacerbate absenteeism.

The Rochester City School District will set up new student health centers at schools over the next two to four years.

Chrissy Miller, a parent of a student at School 29 in the city’s southwest quadrant, emphasized the need for greater attention to student mental health before they reach middle school.

“I'd like to see more done because our babies is (sic) suffering,” Miller said. “And that's not fair to them and to their families because we don't know what's going on behind closed doors in their home, but they bring it into the school system.”

Miller’s concerns were echoed by Eamonn Scanlon, Education Policy Director at the Children’s Agenda.

“Mental health and school climate go hand in hand," Scanlon said. "If students do not feel welcome at school and have trusting relationships with adults, they will remain unengaged from the school community.”

The school board has three budget deliberation sessions ahead of a May 7 vote to adopt the budget.

Noelle E. C. Evans is WXXI's Murrow Award-winning Education reporter/producer.
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