ROCHESTER, Minn. (FOX 47) — On Tuesday evening, more than a hundred Rochester Public Schools (RPS) parents and students protested outside the district building.
“We’re seeing a multitude of research studies come out, suggesting that schools are safe to be in. Transmission is not occurring within schools when proper PPE is worn. When students are masked and teachers are masked,” said Erin Jenson, RPS Parent.
The same group had a smaller protest the week before.
Demonstrators had signs and chanted phrases like, “school is safe,” and “school not screens.”
“I’d rather be in person than DL (distance learning),” said fifth-grader, Jouren Solik.
“I just think I learn a lot better in, in-person school. Because I get to see my friends. I get to socialize,” said 4th grader Camryn Plumbro.
“Classes are just way harder. Our classes are just really challenging to learn, and it feels like you don’t really learn anything after you’ve put a lot of work into the class,” said 11th grader, Nathan Nelson.
Many parents who attended the protests are a part Facebook group called “RPS Prioritize Our Children.” The parents are trying to make a bold statement so the school board sees concerns from a parent’s perspective.
“My kiddos need to go back to school. I have a senior that is missing out on her senior year and is not doing well and struggling from not being in school, in-person,” said Veronica Holtan, RPS parent.
“It’s a struggle just to get him to follow instructions and stay focused when he’s in school,” said Corey Dahl, RPS parent. Dahl’s son is in the 9th-grade, and he wishes high school students could at least be in the hybrid learning model.
“I can only imagine how it is for parents who can’t be with their children during the day to do this. So I think that’s why a lot of kids are struggling or falling behind,” he said.
On Wednesday, FOX 47 asked Superintendent Michael Muñoz, if he has a message for the protesters.
“No. On Tuesday we will be sharing with the board the possible hybrid model for our secondary students and that’s what we’re intending to do. And on Feb. 2. the board is going to make a decision about the elementary [students],” Muñoz said.
He said the board will decide if it will continue with hybrid learning, consider in-person learning, or go back to distance learning for elementary students.
“We’ll have to look at our county data and see where we sit at that time,” Muñoz added.
Jenson said if the board decides to continue with the current learning model, then parents will further advocate for in-person learning.
“There is a group looking at legal action towards the school board and Rochester Public Schools. There is a group that is lobbying with different legislators like Carla Nelson, and others within the legislature in Minnesota. As well as, just trying to get support and educate teachers and other parents about the safety of returning to school,” she said.
On Tuesday, RPS students in Pre-K to 2nd grade began hybrid learning. The board’s plan is to have 3rd to 5th grades in hybrid learning by February. Secondary students will remain in distance learning.