Colleagues,

I hope you had a good holiday break and wish you a healthy and happy new year.

During the recess, we have reached out to the Superintendent to inquire about the District’s plan for resuming instruction and to urge her to communicate to teachers about the details. This morning, we reiterated to the District our recommendation that we pivot to remote instruction for at least the first week of January. Instead of bothering to respond, the Superintendent sent a communication to staff this afternoon to announce that we will be returning in-person – an email that is woefully lacking any specifics and ignores the perilous environment we’re in. 

While the virus is raging as never before, the highly transmissible Omicron variant could turn ill-prepared schools into centers for infection.

And, once again, the Rochester City School District has no real or credible plan. Our recommendation to temporarily postpone the resumption of in-person instruction would have given the District more time to assess the staffing needs and to arrange for the needed mitigation logistics and protocols – such as effective testing of all students, adequate supply of N-95 and KN-95 face masks, etc. Instead, the District is announcing a “plan” that features splitting up classes and deploying some Central Office personnel to cover a few of the many anticipated vacancies. They are thus giving parents of our students, as well as RCSD teachers and other staff, no choice but to make their own decisions about how much they trust the environment at schools. 

When it can be done safely, in-person instruction is best for students. But our District is currently unprepared to ensure a safe school environment thus jeopardizing everyone’s safety and health. Other cities throughout the country, including some in New York State (Syracuse, Yonkers, New Rochelle), have already made the right decision to put safety first and to pivot to remote learning until in-person learning can resume safely. Because so much is at stake, we will continue to press our District to put safety first, too.

Adam Urbanski, RTA President