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Teachers Union President to RCSD: Don’t reopen with in-person learning

Education

"There's nothing sacred about September"

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — The school plans for reopening the Rochester City School District include a hybrid plan, one that would see some students in school part of the week, and at home online for the rest of the week, while other grades would be online only.

In a letter to teachers Tuesday, Union President Adam Urbanski says that plan is a no-go for him, and doesn’t want a student to step foot into a classroom in September until the arrangement improves.

Urbanski calls the RCSD’s hybrid school model for reopening, “aspirational, vague, unworkable, unrealistic and problematic.”

He says it raises unanswered questions and includes contradictions and departures from regulations and obligations. He says with the district’s plan, they cannot, and will not, keep students and educators safe. He is asking the district to postpone any face to face learning until at least November, and keeping school fully online.

MORE | Every school district reopening plan in the 9-county Rochester & Finger Lakes region

Urbanski says in a meeting Tuesday morning with Superintendent Dr. Lesli Myers-Small, she indicated their reopening plan was not yet firm, and is waiting for further guidance from Albany.

Urbanski opposes the plan in part due to insufficient ventilation. He says a large amount windows in buildings are shut permanently, and that would mean breathing in recirculated air.

“It would make more sense to postpone any at school in-person instruction until we can look a family in the face and say to them ‘your child will be safe,” Urbanski said. “Nobody can truthfully ensure parents right now that their children will be safe. This is not ready for prime time. We should do it right, rather than right away. There’s nothing sacred about September. There’s something sacred about life.”

At the school board meeting Tuesday night, the public weighed in on Covid and reopening. Cathy Smith, a former RCSD teacher is asking, like Urbanski, for greater clarity on the reopening plans for the sake of the community. 

“The plans are far from being parent or public friendly,” says Smith adding, “I am hopeful the buses will be empty on opening day.”

Urbanski feels teachers overwhelmingly support his letter Tuesday calling for a delay in physical learning. But, he says everyone is still waiting on the final decision from Governor Cuomo on schools reopening in-state. That decision is expected this week.

Full Letter from Adam Urbanski to Teachers:

“As you already know, we have called on the Rochester City School District to postpone any at-school and in-person reopening of schools at least until the end of the first quarter of the 2020-2021 school year. Instead, we should continue remote teaching and learning until schools are safe for our students and their educators. Our position is summarized in the attached ‘RTA Resolution to Keep Our Students Safe’ unanimously adopted by the RTA Representative Assembly at a Special Meeting on June 30th. The District’s current hybrid plan for reopening schools is aspirational, vague, unworkable, unrealistic and problematic in many ways. It raises a multitude of unanswered questions and includes contradictions and departures from required regulations and obligations. It cannot and will not keep our students nor their educators safe. By extension, it also jeopardizes the health and the lives of families of our students and families of teachers. 
To address this ill-advised plan, we are working on two fronts. First and foremost, we are continuing our effort to persuade the District that the right thing to do is to postpone any at-school and in-person instruction until it is safe. Secondly, we are communicating to the District our specific questions about their plan and seeking to negotiate the impact of that plan, if implemented, on the terms and conditions of your work. In our most recent meeting (this morning), Superintendent Myers-Small indicated to me that the District’s plan is not yet firm and that the District is awaiting further guidance from the Governor. We will continue to keep you informed about any developments and about the progress of our efforts on your behalf. Meanwhile, please feel free to contact us with any questions or concerns.
Thank you for your solidarity and for your continued confidence in your union. Our first priority is your health and safety as well as the health and safety of all our students.”

— Adam Urbanski, RTA President

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