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Rochester students will return to classroom next year in phases



Rochester City School District students will resume in-person learning in phases starting early next year.

Superintendent Lesli Myers-Small put forth a hybrid model to the school board at Thursday’s business meeting. The board approved it by a vote of 4-2. Commissioner Beatriz LeBron abstained.

RCSD’s 25,000-plus students haven’t been in the classroom since March 19. It is one of the only districts in New York state that is fully remote.

“My desire is to bring students back who want to come back in a hybrid model,” Myers-Small said.

Families can still opt to participate in remote learning.

First phase – beginning Jan. 4, 2021. Over 300 students in kindergarten through twelfth grade in specialized programs would attend their home schools except at East and Franklin Lower. Students in grades 7-12 in specialized programs would go to Edison, including East and Franklin Lower. All other pre-K-12 students would remain remote. Appropriate specialized services staff would report in person. All other students would remain remote.

Second phase – beginning in February. General and special education students in pre-K-6 would attend their home school. Students in grades 7-12 in specialized programs would remain at Edison, including East and Franklin Lower, and students in grades 7-12 in regular and special education would remain remote.

Third phase – students in 7-12 general and special education classes and hybrid students, who received specialized services and attend home school.

Several factors determine how and when to bring back students, Myers-Small said. The area’s zone designation, RCSD’s amount of personal protective equipment, transportation, and state monitor recommendations are just a few. Testing capacity and contact tracing also play a role, she said.

“Our students have told us very definitively, ‘We want to come back to school’ and I feel the very same way,” she said.

She called on parents and caregivers to help their children get ready for following safety guidelines (wearing masks, washing hands, social distancing) in school and urged the community to advocate for funding and additional testing sites in the city. Above all, she asked the community to practice measures to help stop the spread of the virus.

“We need everybody to do their part and really make sure that schools are a priority and that we don’t go into the orange, or the red zone,” she said.

Going forward, Myers-Small said the board must be on the same page with the superintendent as the district navigates providing education during a pandemic.

“We need people to be patient and we need people to be flexible. We are entering this journey later than our Monroe County colleagues and so they’ve been through some hiccups and some bumps as they’ve moved into the hybrid model. Were going to experience those hiccups and bumps and we’re going to need everyone to be patient and flexible and know that there are some things that we’re going to have to work out.”

Both Lebron and school board Vice President Cynthia Elliott said they were concerned about student safety and the risk of children exposing loved ones at home to COVID-19.

“I don’t want our children to go back to school under any circumstance until we have moved through this pandemic,” Elliott said.