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RPS board holds online listening session; one parent frustrated with board’s response

ROCHESTER, Minn. (FOX 47) — The Rochester Public Schools Board held a virtual listening session Thursday evening.

The board answered parents’ questions regarding why it chose the hybrid/distance learning model for the resumption of classes which begins Jan. 19.

  • Required Pre-K to 2nd grade to move to hybrid
  • Gradually allows 3rd- 5th to move to hybrid
  • Secondary student stay in distance learning

Despite the online meeting, the board’s intention of transparency wasn’t received well by one parent.

“I personally think it was a bit of the slap in the face to try to create this listening session,” said Patricio Gargollo. “We as parents are listening. They are not listening to our concerns. The questions were cherry-picked. I submitted a bunch of questions. Even on the live feed, not a single one of them were answered.”

Gargollo said during the meeting he received at least 50 text messages from other frustrated parents.

“Extremely upset with the information that was presented,” Gargollo added.

The school board said it received 427 questions. Board members were unable to answer all of them during the meeting.

“Why are we much more conservative than other districts? That was a really common question,” said Cathy Nathan, RPS Board vice-chair.
“The Minnesota Department of Health gives districts guidance about what data is to be used to make the learning model decision. And it starts with the county-level data.”

The board showed graphs to back up its reasoning for the current learning model. One graph the board referred to, showed 16.3 percent of Olmsted County COVID-19 cases are from student aged people.

The data also showed 71 percent of Olmsted County cases are from people in the same age group as teachers and staff.

“We can’t make anyone go into the classroom,” said Jean Marvin, RPS board chair.

“Dr. Marvin made some interesting points like you can’t make teachers go back to work. You can’t expect people to wear PPE. Well, guess what? I wear PPE. 12 hours a day, every day at my job. And I can’t say,’ you know what, I’m afraid of catching COVID, so I am not going to go to work.’ Am I concerned about catching COVID? Of course. Should teachers and students be concerned about catching COVID? Absolutely?”

The board hoped the meeting would be perceived well by parents.

“We understand how hard this is for everyone involved. For our students, our families, our teachers, and our staff.” Nathan said.

However, Gargollo was left with unanswered questions.

“My problem is I did not hear from the board today, any of the reasoning behind why the rollout plan is so slow. Why they have really failed to put up a plan for (grades) 6 to 12 students? I didn’t hear it and I don’t think I am alone.”

The school board said it will post all the questions it received along with answers online.

The district will review and decide if a change to the learning model is needed at a meeting on Feb. 2.

KaMaria Braye

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