NorthSTAR to go remote following staffing issues and violence

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — The Rochester City School District has shut down NorthSTAR Social and Emotional Learning Center this week.

They will now be fully remote, but not solely for pandemic reasons. Union leaders in the district tell News10NBC this comes after struggling for more than a month with staffing issues and violence in the building.

Union leaders in the Rochester City School District like BENTE Local 2419 President Dan DiClemente say the time students spent learning remotely because of the pandemic, as well as other stressors, including gang-related issues, are partly to blame for out-of-control violence.

"A lot of them know the school resource officers aren’t there as well, our school safety officers do not carry weapons and they do a very difficult job getting in between some of these fights that happen in the buildings and gang activity,” DiClemente said.

Along with NorthSTAR shutting down last week, district leaders say a football game at East High School was postponed Friday because of an incident earlier in the day where students from another school assaulted an East High student. In the same day, a student struck a staff member.

"Last Wednesday, at All City High School, there was a shooting outside there were two of them, and the targets were the students, thank God whoever was shooting, missed,” said Rochester Teachers Association President Adam Urbanski.

A little over a year ago, the school board voted to remove Rochester Police officers from its schools. Fast forward to now, DiClemente says the need for school resource officers is crucial. He says because of COVID, almost 50 officers were laid off.

"They make $18.56 an hour starting pay," DiClemente said. "I think the district will need to do more if they want to get staff and people in to take those jobs when they’re putting their safety at risk.”

Rochester Police say they have not been asked to provide any extra security in the schools. In a statement to News10NBC, they said, "We try to be in the area during school opening and dismissal (when there is typically a higher percentage for fights, traffic accidents etc.) Obviously, with the lack of resources/manpower, we simply cannot be at every school, but we try to be at the schools that historically have had issues.”

News10NBC has contacted the school district to see if they wanted to respond to these claims and have not heard back. In a letter to parents, superintendent Dr. Lesli Myers-Small said they intend to reopen NorthSTAR before Thanksgiving break.

The full letter is below (mobile users, click here):

Letter to NorthSTAR Families FINAL 10.13.21 by News10NBC on Scribd

Last week,

The four unions representing employees of the Rochester City School District had a meeting with the district about safety concerns within school buildings.

The groups are concerned with order and the physical safety of students and staff.

Friday they sent a letter to Superintendent Lesli Myers-Small and the Board of Education with a list of suggestions, including more school resource officers and support services.

The letter says, “As it stands now, building administrators do not have the ability, staff, or resources to create safe school environments while providing alternatives for students who choose to disrupt the educational process.”

You can read the letter in full below (mobile users, click here):

Joint Letter to Superintend… by News10NBC