RCS plans to resume full-time in-person learning

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published February 10, 2021

Shutterstock image


ROCHESTER HILLS — The Rochester Community Schools district is slated to return to full-time in-person learning within the next few weeks, depending on grade.

In a Feb. 5 email to district parents, Debi Fragomeni, the deputy superintendent for teaching and learning, said the district’s vision throughout the pandemic “has always been to return to in-person instruction as soon as feasible.”

“We are encouraged by the steady decline of COVID-19 case counts and test positivity rates, along with the county and state’s commitment for increased accessibility to the vaccine. As such, we continue to move forward with plans for students to return to full time, five days a week, to face-to-face instruction,” she said in the email.

At press time, students in pre-kindergarten through grade five were slated to be the first to return to five days of face-to-face instruction beginning Feb. 22.

Early childhood special education sessions were scheduled to resume their regular schedule of four days per week — Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays — starting Feb. 22, with slightly modified times due to required cleaning and sanitizing between groups.

“We will continue to cohort (by classroom) at the elementary level to continue to mitigate as much risk as possible and limit exposure,” said Concetta Lewis, the executive director of special education.

At press time, students in grades 6-12, and those in the adult transition and services program, were slated to return to full-time, in-person instruction March 1. Scheduling plans that district officials said would “maximize instructional time and safety” were still being finalized and were not released at press time.

District officials said all dates and plans remain flexible and depend on the ever-evolving COVID-19 conditions. Fragomeni said the district is in continuous conversations with the Oakland County Health Division and checks local COVID-19 data before making recommendations and decisions regarding the district’s Extended COVID-19 Learning Plan.

As of Feb. 8, Fragomeni said the average number of tests per day decreased by over 200 tests per day and the percent of COVID-19 positivity decreased by a little less than 1% over the last 28 days. She said the health care capacity is very stable, all trajectory of numbers are going down; and testing, contact tracing and containment infrastructure is strong.

“From the beginning of the pandemic through Feb. 8, this information becomes our guiding light to check to confirm and ensure that our district is aligned with these numbers so that we can make decisions, work with our committees and our community in terms of strict mitigation,” she said.

Fragomeni said the district is grateful that the community has been following the advice of public health experts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

“By wearing masks, limiting indoor gatherings, practicing physical distancing, washing hands and staying home when sick we are modeling the behaviors that will help keep our school buildings open,” she said.

On Feb. 8, the RCS Board of Education voted 7-0 to recertify its Extended COVID-19 Learning Plan. RCS Board President Kristin Bull said the board is mandated to recertify its plan each month.

“That plan does not include any sort of schedule or calendar, so in other words, we are not actually taking a vote tonight on a schedule to return. It’s not part of that plan. … That schedule, as everyone knows, is very fluid and is led essentially by the administration,” she said, during the meeting.

Also on Feb. 8, the state allowed youth contact sports to resume practices and games, if participating athletes wear masks. If masks cannot be worn during practice or competition, state officials said athletes must be regularly tested for the coronavirus. Following state guidance, RCS high school athletes returned to winter sports — including boys and girls skiing, boys swimming and diving, boys and girls basketball, hockey, competitive cheer and wrestling — Feb. 8. RCS student-athletes in grades six-eight were also able to resume boys basketball, competitive cheer teams and volleyball. The order will remain in effect through March 29.

Those with questions or concerns about the district’s Extended COVID-19 Learning Plan are encouraged to reach out to their building administrator or use the “Talk to RCS” feature at www.rochester.k12.mi.us.

More information regarding RCS athletics can be found at www.rochester.k12.mi.us/athletics.