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RPS school board task force outlines factors impacting fall classes

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ROCHESTER, Minn. (FOX 47) -- The big question facing schools for the 2020-21 school year is whether or not classes will be attended in person. There could also be a mix of distance and in-person learning.

Rochester Public Schools could have multiple buildings doing different models this school year.

"We were also told by Minnesota Department of Education that we have to be flexible because things may change throughout the school year and we may have to jump from one model into another model either as a system or as a school building," said RPS Superintendent Michael Muñoz.

The district has a 163 member task force in charge of looking at the options and recommending the best decision for the district. At Tuesday's board meeting, board members heard the task force's recommendations.

The task force is is looking at several key components when considering bringing students back to campus. Members recognize there's a difference between in-person and distance learning.

"Students missed anywhere from 8-12 weeks of in-person learning instruction so obviously even though we're really proud of the work our teachers did during distance learning we know that distance learning is not as effective as in-person learning," said Muñoz.

Another key factor for many of the task force members is safety and wellness.

"This is looking at every aspect of the facilities, looking at buildings and transportation vehicles, hygiene, the air quality, how we clean sites once students are gone, so they're really focusing on that particular area," said Muñoz.

Muñoz also addressed concerns of parents who don't feel safe sending their kids back. He said, "no matter what model" is being used, distance learning will be available for all students.

RPS released this statement Tuesday saying that after consulting with the task force, it will also seek feedback from parents, students, and staff in the coming weeks.

RPS Back to School Planning Update
RPS Back to School Planning Update

The board is also expecting more guidance from Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz the week of July 27th.

The board says it understands parents are dealing with a lot of uncertainty right now.

"I guess I just want to say that we understand the frustration, the desperation that people are feeling and I wish that there was an easy fix but there just isn't," said school board vice chair Jean Marvin. "We will learn more, we will get more guidance as we go along from our government agencies but I just hope people know that we hear you and we feel, absolutely the things you're feeling."

Zach Fuller

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