Families in Rochester Given Coronavirus Update from Rochester Public Schools
I've got three kids that attend school in Rochester and I'm sure I'm not the only parent wondering what the plan might be for our kids if the coronavirus was in our town.
Living in Rochester has a lot of positives, but I also know a lot of people come here for medical care from all over the world. If we do have an individual infected in our town, what's next? Will schools be canceled? Will e-learning be an option?
Michael Muñoz, Superintendent of Rochester Public Schools, has sent out two notes to families regarding the plan throughout the district. The latest note was sent out on Friday, February 28th, 2020, and is below:
Dear RPS Families,
Rochester Public Schools (RPS) is keenly aware of the Wuhan Coronavirus COVID-19 and the concerns that may continue to arise in our community.
Our District follows the guidance and direction of our expert partners, Olmsted County Public Health Services (OCPHS) and the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), with respect to illness and infectious diseases. The most recent protocols related to COVID-19 set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have been shared with our entire staff and RPS families earlier this week. We understand the protocols may change as more information becomes available and we coordinate regularly with OCPHS to assure that we understand the most recent information and changes. Communication with our staff, students, and families is critical, and we are committed to continued communication with our stakeholders. We continue to work closely with our partner organizations to best address the needs of our community.
RPS is part of a strong network of community organizations. Together, we meet to discuss our collaborative planning and response to public health emergencies. Our relationship and continued practice with OCPHS, Olmsted Medical Center, Mayo Clinic, Federal Medical Center, City and County Emergency Management, first responders and others, assure we are working together to prepare, plan, and respond in the best way possible for the health and safety of our community.
The District follows the MDH guidelines as it relates to the daily cleaning and decontamination of our facilities. It is also our daily practice to track our students’ illness symptoms and absences and report necessary information to Olmsted County Public Health Services (OCPHS). OCPHS monitors student illnesses and provides guidance on additional facilities services and communication as needed.
Questions about E-Learning Days have been asked, presumably in the event of an extended school closure due to illness. The District does not use E-Learning Days at this time. Here is why:
- Equity with devices. Not all of our students have a district-issued take-home device. Some students may have devices at home but lack internet access. Some students may not have access to any device at home.
- Equity with learning at home and adult support. Not all of our students have access to an adult that can assist with e-learning.
- Teacher contract. Our current teacher contract does not address E-learning. This is a topic that would need to be discussed and negotiated with the Rochester Education Association, our teachers’ union.
- State Statute. Minnesota State Statute 120A.414 Subdivision 1 states that "‘E-learning day’ means a school day where a school offers full access to online instruction provided by students' individual teachers due to inclement weather. A school district or charter school that chooses to have e-learning days may have up to five e-learning days in one school year. An e-learning day is counted as a day of instruction and included in the hours of instruction under section 120A.41.” Our interpretation of the statute is that E-learning days can only be used for weather-related closures.
For now, it is business as usual at RPS. The District does not have plans to close schools at this time. In the event of a school closure due to illness, the District would work with local partners like OCPHS, MDH, and the Minnesota Department of Education. We continue to practice healthy habits, such as hand washing, covering your mouth when you cough, and so on. We remind parents, guardians, staff, and students they should refrain from coming to school or work when they are sick and only return to school or work once they are fever-free for 24 hours.