Rochester teachers union calls for return to remote learning

Coronavirus

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — It was back to school Monday after more than a week off for the holidays. It also meant serious concerns over the health and well-being of students and teachers.    

Rochester Teachers Association President Adam Urbanski is asking the Rochester City School District to briefly go back to remote learning for a week or even two.

Leaders feel RCSD is not properly staffed on many campuses since teachers are calling in sick, and some teachers already have more than half their students on quarantine. 

Leaders of The Rochester Teachers Association say many students returned without testing in the final days of the holiday break. And to make matters worse, they returned before schools could receive new stockpiles of masks and test kits. While a portion of students sit in quarantine with no remote learning plan.  

“I now am teaching 2/3 of my class the new lessons and I am not set up to teach the same to the 1/3 or more of my students that are home,” local fifth grade teacher Jason Valenti said. 

“The KN95 masks which are effective won’t be distributed until at the earliest Tuesday,” RTA President Urbanski said. “So today you run a huge risk knowing most students are not vaccinated. That is a recipe for disaster.” 

At some schools, a significant number of teachers didn’t come in due to COVID-19 concerns. Forcing other staff to step in and teach multiple classes to fill vacancies.  

“Our instrumental teacher was pulled to work in a classroom so there were no music lessons,” Valenti said. “Our social-emotional coach was pulled to teach in a classroom. We are struggling to get subs and we’re using up our emergency sub-list almost every day.” 

While in town Governor Kathy Hochul announced 200,000 more rapid test kits coming to Rochester City School students. So, it can be easier to identify who’s sick while those asymptomatic don’t have to constantly quarantine.   

“That’s almost as disruptive as staying fully remote,” Gov. Hochul said. “That has to end. So were going to be smart about it and ask where the exposure came from as a different question. That way we can have more stability in our school system.”  

Both RTA and Teachers agree in-person learning is the better way for students to learn, but only if classrooms can be properly staffed and a well-organized plan to keep campuses safe which they feel the district doesn’t have.  

“I would like to see my district listen to the school members, the staff, the principals, the teachers and the families to see what each building needs,” Valenti said. “Then get he resources out to those places so we can do our jobs.” 

According to RTA, two of the hardest hit schools in teachers today was School 34 who had 11 of their 18 educators out due to COVID-19 concerns. while the Edison Educational Complex had 32 staff members out sick. We reached out to the district on how they’re trying to fill these vacancies but never heard back. 

However, on Twitter they did encourage all students to get tested before coming back to school Monday. Plus, advise all students eligible be vaccinated to keep campuses safe from an outbreak.

Educators in the Rochester City School District point to the Young Women’s College Prep Charter School switching to remote learning for the first week of January as well as the Syracuse Central School District as examples of plans in place which they ask the district to look at as well. 

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