Rochester City School District Superintendent Lesli Myers-Small said she will update the school board on expectations for in-person learning now that some students are back in classrooms at least some of the time.
Myers-Small gave that pledge at the Jan. 5 Board of Education meeting, during which she gave an update on how the first day went for about 325 students in specialized programs from kindergarten through grade 12.
The superintendent was responding to a request from Commissioner Beatriz LeBron, who said she was trying to understand the intricacies of combining in-person and virtual instruction once more students return to classrooms.
LeBron also asked for clarity on the protocols and expectations for wearing masks.
“I think there is some confusion, from the feedback I’ve seen,” the commissioner said. She said that the language in the printed materials provided by the district may not be emphatic enough.
“I know there is a lot of fear,” LeBron said. “I think we can do as much as we can do to alleviate those fears by providing the information directly from you as the superintendent.”
The district has a phased-in approach to hybrid learning. On Feb 8, about 4,400 students from pre-K to grade 6 who opted for hybrid learning are scheduled to return to classrooms for two days each week.
Myers-Small announced her staff is working on a plan to offer hybrid learning to grades 7 through 12. Initially, those students were to have remote learning only for the rest of the school year. She has yet to announce the details that would bring about 2,900 back to classrooms on some days of the week.
Myers-Small became emotional when she talked about how students and staff reacted to the Jan. 5 reopening.
“It was an amazing day,” she said, and thanked the board for supporting the reopening plan.
She described the day as one of complete joy and that students and staff told her how excited they were to be back in an actual classroom. “There were smiles and much laughter,” she said.
However, during the public comment portion of the videoconferenced meeting, a speaker criticized some members of the central office staff for not maintaining physical distance while visiting some buildings.
The comment led Commissioner Willa Powell to ask Myers-Small to issue a reminder that it is acceptable to remind individuals to practice COVID-19 safety protocols.
Myers-Small responded that staff can remind each other and those higher up, but that the speaker’s comment was “disheartening” for her as superintendent, given the context of the first day.
“We were perfectly six feet apart at all times?” she said. “No one was. We will get there.”
She said students and staff adhered to rules about masks, and she repeated assurances she has received from medical professionals including Monroe County Commissioner of Public Health Dr. Michael Mendoza that schools are the safest place for children.