Updated: January 26, 2021 11:10 PM
Created: January 26, 2021 10:20 PM
ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — Rochester parents and teachers strongly disagreed Tuesday night over whether the city school district should resume in-person teaching.
"I just don't think now is the time,” said special education teacher Jeffrey Vink to an online meeting of the school board.
In the public comment section of the meeting, Rochester teachers repeated their misgivings about reopening schools for hybrid learning, but numerous parents say their kids can't handle being kept out of school any longer.
"My son’s mental health has been negatively affected by remote learning, not being able to see his peers or his teacher in person,” exclaimed parent Leah Elliott.
The school board went over plans to switch from all remote learning to hybrid, in which students would spend some days in school and others learning via computer from home, alternating days to minimize class sizes and maximize social distancing. Under the district’s schedule, the switch is now less than two weeks away, scheduled to begin on Feb. 8.
The Rochester Teachers Association has repeatedly warned against it and says almost 90% of its members want the change to wait until teachers can get vaccinated. The union also says the district's plan is inadequate and that it's not equipped to teach students in person and remotely at the same time.
“Please do not allow distracters, unions, policymakers from the outside in making judgment calls for our families and our students,” parent Gareth Warren said.
"Please don't misunderstand our teacher's concerns about going back to school,” teacher Shelly Rosenberg countered. "Our kids do need to be in school. They do. But it is more important that they stay alive. And right now, they will get sick."
“I really just crave to be in the building,” East High School Senior Dez Garrick said.
Garrick told the board that school on her computer has taken her from being a strong student, already accepted at the University of Rochester, to struggling to stay engaged and keep her grades up enough to protect her college admission.
"I don't think a lot of teachers understand how mentally broken a lot of us students are,” she said. “We are really going through it and it's really hard and it's really depressing."
Teachers say Rochester doesn’t have the resources of suburban districts that have made the switch to hybrid, but advocates say it’s not just the suburban districts that are leaving Rochester schools behind.
“It is unacceptable for Rochester to be the only big four school district in the entire state of New York to be remote learning only,” advocate Kelolo White told the board.
Copyright 2021 - WHEC-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company