Rochester School for the Deaf prepares for unique challenges during pandemic

Emily Putnam
Updated: September 04, 2020 06:04 PM
Created: September 04, 2020 03:41 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — The Rochester School for the Deaf has had some unique challenges to consider while preparing to reopen.

After all, students commute from all over the state to the school, and stay in dorms while the school is in session. This fall, the school is using a hybrid model: students will be in-person and staying in the dorms on Tuesday through Thursday, and they will learn from home on Mondays and Fridays.


Administrators thought this would be the safest solution since it minimizes the amount of travel for students who commute. Since some come from as far away as Albany weekly, the option of going fully remote has been offered to commuters, and about 35% have taken that option.

The pandemic has also forced the school to make some significant cultural changes. 

"We rely a lot on hands and touching and so forth," says Superintendent Antony McLetchie. "We tap each other to get attention. Or hugging – I haven't seen our deaf friends hugging in a long time. You know our culture has completely changed, and with COVID-19 the pandemic has had a huge impact on that. We've had to change the way that we behave."

The school is also planning on using clear masks to help with in-person communication in the classroom, although McLetchie told us there's no perfect answer for how they'll address mask communication issues that arise. 

The Rochester School for the Deaf will have its first back-in-person day on Sept. 15. 

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