This story has been updated with results from a Rochester City School District survey of students, families and staff.
More than 81% of Rochester Teachers Association members who responded to a survey said the district should continue remote-only instruction for at least another quarter.
RTA released preliminary findings of the survey on Oct. 20.
RTA president Adam Urbanski said in a message to union members that he expected to learn on or before Oct. 30 whether the Rochester City School District would continue to be fully remote or move to a model that combines in-person with online instruction.
In August, the union and the district signed a memorandum of agreement to start the year with distance learning according to mutually agreed upon criteria. The agreement called for both sides to meet two weeks prior to the end of the first marking period to extend or adjust the provisions and/or to consider plans for reopening schools at any other time. When Superintendent Lesli Myers-Small announced the district would start only with remote classes, she gave a 10-week timeframe.
Survey respondents were asked:
- Do you support the district implementing a hybrid model in mid-November: 23% yes; 51% no; 26% unsure.
- If the district were to adopt a hybrid model in mid-November, would you be concerned about your health and safety: 75% yes; 25% no.
- If the district were to adopt a hybrid model in mid-November, would you be concerned about health and safety of your family: 79% yes; 21% no.
- How confident are you that by mid-November the district can provide and maintain a safe and clean working environment for in-person instruction: 5% very confident; 20% somewhat confident; 75% not confident.
As for the instruction experience:
- Rate the district’s current remote-only model: 11% excellent; 47% good; 33% fair; 9% poor.
- Do your students need additional support that they are not currently receiving: 80% yes; 20% no.
- Describe the engagement level of your students: 18% very engaged; 64% somewhat engaged; 18% not very engaged.
- Describe parental support during remote learning: 31% very supportive; 61% somewhat supportive; 8% not very supportive.
Results of the survey, which had more than 1,600 respondents, were released as the district finds itself in continued fiscal distress.
At the Oct. 22 school board meeting, Superintendent Lesli Myers-Small released results of a survey of students, families and staff that assessed remote learning.
In a question similar to that asked by RTA of its membership, the district asked about comfort level with returning to the buildings after 10 weeks.
Among students, 22.3% said they would be very confident going back and 20.8% said they would not be comfortable. Among families, 18.2% said they’d be very comfortable sending their child back and 30.8% said they would not send their child back. Among staff, 12.9% said they were very confident and 64.1% said they were not confident.
If schools were to reopen, students, families and staff said they were most concerned about health and safety.
Asked if there should not be a return to the buildings, 23.9% of students strongly agreed and 22.4% strong disagreed. Among families, 38.5% strongly agreed there should not be a return and 18.7% strongly disagreed.
Asked that after 10 weeks of fully remote learning, which model would best meet the needs of students, 23.8% of staff said in-person learning, 33.9% said hybrid and 42.3% said fully remote.
Among other results:
- How successful has remote learning been? 41.2% of students, 37.2% of families and 47.10% of staff said things are going well;
- What would be the impact on the family of continuing with remote learning: 37.7% said no impact, no change; 16.9% said significant daily disruption.
- Should in-person school resume after 10 weeks with a modified schedule that includes remote learning: 21.8% of families strongly agreed; 30.5% strongly disagreed.
While the district considers whether to stay remote or bring students back to their buildings, leadership still grapples with financial issues.
During a finance committee meeting on Oct. 20, Myers-Small, Chief Financial Officer Carleen Pierce and state monitor Shelley Jallow presented another in a series of sobering financial scenarios.
The known deficit is estimated at $117 million but could reach $199 million because of obligations such as a fund balance and a return of overpayment on aid.
The messengers emphasized the need for sound planning, to avoid duplicating services and understanding the impact of maintaining all the buildings when enrollment is down.
Among changes already implemented in a short-term action plan:
- travel has ceased;
- a hiring freeze is in effect;
- all non-grant/non-health and safety/non-instruction materials including rentals have been frozen;
- overtime is managed based on need;
- use of substitutes for all positions have been frozen; and
- all contracts presented to the Board of Education require a cost analysis.