Parents and children’s advocates have some differing views about the Rochester City School District’s decision to return some classrooms to in-person learning while others stay remote.
Rebecca Hetherington is part of the district’s Parent Leadership Advisory Council (PLAC). At home, she has two sons in elementary school who are currently taking classes remotely, plus a toddler.
“My first grader is doing what he calls his ‘office’ where he pulls a blanket over his head in order to do his assignments on the couch,” Hetherington says.
Hetherington says that her kids are “lucky” that their school is welcoming students back, but she’s still apprehensive about sending them to school with the number of COVID-19 cases in the community.
According to the Monroe County Public Health Department, more than 2,000 children under 10 have tested positive for COVID-19 in the last two weeks. In that same timeframe, nearly 4,000 pre–teens and teenagers tested positive.
Qutisha Britt, an afterschool educator and a parent of a 3-year-old in pre-kindergarten who has asthma, is also concerned about the number of cases among children.
“I can’t afford to send my baby to school where some parents can’t afford to keep their kids at home because they’re sick, because they have work and other things going on,” Britt says.
She says with COVID-19 cases up among school-aged children, she will not be sending her daughter back to the classroom for now. Hetherington worries that other students who may be in quarantine, whose schools return to in-person learning, could end up falling further behind without a temporary remote learning option.
Hetherington says even still, the alternative of ongoing remote learning, isn’t sustainable.
“The way remote learning is right now, it’s not going to work. It doesn’t work,” she says. “We spent a year trying to make it work. And it was a disaster for our family and for a lot of families. So any kids with any special needs, or any type of modification.”
Eamonn Scanlon with The Children’s Agenda says the district’s decision to switch some schools back to in-person is a “positive development.”
“Because students who’ve been remote the longest are the ones in the city, it’s very unfortunate that they are also the first to go back to remote because of staffing shortages,” Scanlon says. “We really need to do everything possible to make sure that those kids have access to in-person learning”
Superintendent Lesli Myers-Small said on Monday that other district schools could return to in-person learning by next Tuesday.