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RCSD to reopen with hybrid model in the spring
Rochester City School District students are now set to return to school en masse as soon as February, following a plan presented Thursday by Superintendent Lesli Myers-Small.
In a presentation to the school board, Myers-Small suggested allowing elementary students to return as soon as early February. If that goes well, they would be followed by students in grades 7-12 several weeks later.
They will learn in a hybrid model, which usually involves two days in person and three days of remote learning.
"I go back to our first core belief, which is that our students are our first priority and they're at the heart of every decision we make," Myers-Small said. "In my opinion, we did that tonight."
The board approved the plan by a 4-2 vote, with Willa Powell and Cynthia Elliott in opposition and Beatriz LeBron absent.
The district was already planning to bring back some students in specialized programs starting Jan. 4, but that would only be a few hundred. Rochester and Buffalo are the only districts in the state that have been fully remote for the entire school year, though New York City, Wheatland-Chili and some others have been forced to evacuate buildings as COVID-19 cases have risen recently.
An enormous array of details remain to be laid out. Chief of Operations Mike Schmidt gave some rough estimates for the cost?¡ª an important consideration for a district already in a deep financial hole.
The initial opening for children with disabilities, concentrated in three buildings, will cost about $1.3 million, he said. Moving on to K-6 students after that would raise the cost to about $18.5 million. Adding secondary students would then bring the cost to roughly $25 million, Schmidt said, stressing that the numbers could change based on timing and the number of students involved.
Some of that money was included in the 2020-21 budget and theoretically would be available to cover the costs. But the district had been intending to re-allot some of it to plug its larger gap, Chief Financial Officer Carleen Pierce said.
Board members expressed some ambivalence about agreeing to reopen schools at the very time that cases are rising?¡ª even though students would not actually enter buildings for several months.
"I would be very nervous about starting anything before the fourth marking period for our general population unless there was a clear breakthrough with vaccines,"?Powell said.
An RCSD survey showed that parents and teachers, too, are uneasy about reopening. Parents would have the option to keep their children at home.
Students, though, have consistently hoped to return to school. Board member Ricardo Adams said their perspective carried the most weight for him.
"I don't know any kids that are happy right now," he?said. "Some are making it happy, but very few I know are pleased with the situation."
Contact staff writer Justin Murphy?at email@example.com.?