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Wednesday 30 September 2020
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School Districts Must Talk to Parents, Teachers About Reopening Plans

Patti Singer
pattisinger@minorityreporter.net

RCSD Superintendent Lesli Myers-Small. Provided photo

Gov. Andrew Cuomo gave school districts homework – and it’s due no later than Aug. 21.

By then, all districts have to do three things:

  • Post their remote learning, testing and contact tracing plans online in a way that’s easy to find – not buried in reopening plans that are dozens of pages long.
  • Schedule three discussion sessions with parents and caregivers. The Rochester City School District and the other Big Five districts must hold five sessions.
  • Schedule a session with teachers.

RCSD Superintendent Lesli Myers-Small said in a news release that the information would be at www.rcsdk12.org/reopens. She said the reopening team will review school and district plans to determine whether any changes need to be made.

Cuomo in his Aug. 7 news conference said that based on infection rates, all schools can open for in-person instruction if they choose. He acknowledged that unless parents are willing to send their children and teachers are willing to go into the classroom, it’s a moot point.

Asked whether the state would force teachers hold in-person instruction, Cuomo said that’s not the kind of relationship the state wants to have with the unions.

RCSD has proposed a hybrid model for preK to grade 4 and, K-6 special classes and K-12 specialized programs. Parents could opt for all remote learning. Grades 5-12 would have remote classes.

Adam Urbanski, president of the Rochester Teachers Association, on Aug. 4 sent a memo to members reiterating the request to postpone in-person reopening until at least the end of the first quarter of the academic year. He said the hybrid plan raises questions and will not keep students and teachers safe.

The governor also said the state would monitor the infection rate as it gets closer to the start of school and make adjustment as needed.

Asked about outdoor classes, the governor said, “It’s a lot safer. Indoors is what you want to avoid. I think it makes sense to the extent you can do it.”

Cuomo said that he has been inundated with questions about testing. Parents and teachers want to know when a district will test, how it will be done, what happens if a student or teacher shows symptoms at school and tests positive, what will happen to the school if a certain number of students or staff test positive.

Cuomo acknowledged there has been some confusion over requirements for testing. He said that unlike the Department of Health, the state Education Department is not under his control. It is overseen by the Board of Regents.

Cuomo expressed concern about equity in situations where districts implement remote learning.

“We’ve learned from the experiences we’ve had during COVID that remote learning can be quite unequal given the demographics and given the circumstances,” he said. “So, I’m going to ask the school districts to post their remote learning plan on how they’re going to do remote learning, to the extent they are, if they are, in their district.”

He did not give specifics of how to define equity, how it would be benchmarked and whether there was a standard of equity across districts.

In her statement, Myers-Small said, “While this has been one of the most challenging times for our students, parents, and staff, we are committed to ensuring that high-quality learning takes place for all students in a fair and equitable way.” The brief statement did not have specifics.