Rochester Community Schools to start year with remote learning

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published August 11, 2020

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ROCHESTER — Whether families in the Rochester Community Schools district opt for in-person learning or the virtual school option, all students in the district will start the school year learning from home.

On Aug. 5, RCS Superintendent Robert Shaner sent an email to parents to alert them of the news.

“After great care and thoughtful consideration, we have determined that the best course of action is to utilize the remote learning component of our Return to School Roadmap for the start of the 2020-21 school year,” he said in the email.

The first day of school will begin on Tuesday, Sept. 1, for all RCS students, which includes remote learning and the RCS Virtual Campus.

Those who opt for in-person learning for the 2020-21 school year will temporarily begin in a remote-learning environment Sept. 1.

“Our vision is to transition back to in-person learning as conditions allow. At this time, we anticipate being in the remote environment until Oct. 1,” Shaner said in the email.

Students enrolled in the RCS Virtual Campus will continue their online learning as planned.

Developing a plan that enables students and staff members to safely return to school in the fall has been “one of the most challenging undertakings that I’ve experienced in my 30 years of public service,” according to Shaner.

“As we consider classroom instruction, our special needs populations, transportation, food services, and maintenance and custodial operations, the high degree of complexity and the costs associated with mitigating health risks during the pandemic are extensive,” he said in the email.

Shaner said there are still many unanswered questions. The district continues to seek clarity from the Oakland County Health Division on screening, testing, tracing and reporting protocols; awaits guidance regarding pupil accounting; and anticipates funding allocations that would help the district more accurately align expenditures with available resources. He said the district is also waiting for further guidance from the Michigan High School Athletic Association, the Michigan School Band and Orchestra Association, and other school organizations.

“Through all of these challenges, I am proud to say that our teams have moved forward with great purpose and resolve to provide the best learning options for our students while mitigating health risks. We firmly believe that the thoughtful decision to delay in-person instruction is the right thing to do at this time to refine granular decisions and keep our school community safe,” Shaner said in the email.

District officials said the remote learning in the fall will be more robust than the emergency measures put in place in March 2020. Remote learning enhancements for the 2020-21 school year include: Google Classroom as a standardized learning platform; increased contact time with classroom teachers and special education staff; and a more structured daily schedule. Secondary students will receive feedback and grades; elementary students will receive timely, standards-based feedback; students with Individualized Education Plans will receive progress monitoring toward their IEP goals; and daily attendance will be taken.

“At this time, the best way to provide continuity of learning for RCS students is to begin forming relationships through remote learning. When we are ready to transition safely to in-person instruction, our students and teachers will have already built a solid foundation,” he said in the email.

On the Rochester Post’s Facebook page, many in the community voiced their opinions with the district’s decision to start the school year remotely.

“I’m disappointed with this decision. Mr. Shaner had previously communicated that as long as we remained in phase 4 or beyond, in-person school would resume. My children (2 in high school and 1 in elementary) are honestly devastated,” said one poster.

Another said he thinks a full on-campus solution should be offered to all students starting at the first available date.

“If teachers are concerned for their health, they should be provided the option of teaching classes from off campus,” he said in a post.

One woman said she was “disappointed” but she also “expected” the news.

“Too many protocol hoops to jump through to meet all the requirements set forth by the Governor,” she said in a post.

Another woman said she’s not a fan of remote learning.

“I think it will be a disservice to many young children and especially those with learning challenges,” she said in a post.

One woman, who said she has an RCS first-grader and who also works as a special education teacher for a different district, thanked RCS for making what she called a “very difficult decision.”

“You have worked tirelessly since March on this. And have been proactive in your efforts to make the tough (and based on the comments here) very unpopular decisions. You can have all of my tax dollars and then some. I would never expect those dollars back (as many have tried to demand) because you continue to work your butts off for this exceptional district and community. And I cannot even imagine the hours of overtime you’ve put into providing our children a great education even with all of this going on,” she said in the post.

For more information or to contact the district, visit www.rochester.k12.mi.us and click on the red “Talk To Us” button on the top left corner of the page, or call (248) 726-3000.

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