RPS says district-wide online learning unlikely to return; In-person learning resumes Monday

ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) – Rochester Public Schools (RPS) students have completed their two weeks of remote learning.

On the district’s website, an alert appears that reads, “Reminder: In-person instruction resumes Monday, January 31.”


The district opted for distance learning because 50% of school buildings were suffering from staffing shortages, due to the Omicron variant COVID-19.

The acting superintendent said the break in in-person learning was necessary.

“The pause we’ve taken for remote learning has served its purpose in terms of bringing our staff back to a place where we can all serve children,” Pekel said.

He said on Friday, 91 staff members called in sick for Monday. The district has 2,700 employees.

Pekel said there is an RPS monitoring threshold before deciding on remote learning.

“The standards that we will follow in the future are: 15% of staff and students in the class have symptoms of COVID or confirmed positive cases. At the school level, it will be 50% before moving to distance learning. And at the building, it would be 15% for the absence of staff. So those will be the triggers,” he said.

Pekel wants the RPS community to know that there is unlikely to be district-wide distance learning again.

“Rather than that, what we would probably do, what we did, at the class level or at the school level. We have not yet moved from the school building to distance education, but it would be the first step before returning to the district level,” he said.

A week before e-learning, the district stopped looking for contracts.

“We stopped contract tracing because it was so unmanageable. What was happening was that we actually couldn’t get good numbers on actual positive cases. We were spending so much time tracking down children who might have been close to a positive case, we couldn’t know the actual number of positive cases, which we needed to make the decisions about distance learning,” said Pekel.

However, the district is reverting to this method.

“We are going to monitor very carefully how far we can contact the trace. and then we will make more decisions on whether or not to continue this practice,” Pekel said.

The district said it was receiving just over 11,000 N95 masks from the government

“Most people in Rochester have chosen to wear another mask, but we will make these higher masks available. We have been and we will increase it,” Pekel said.

It also distributes home tests for the Tests-To-Stay initiative. Home testing is available for students and staff.

“We had our test driver to stay, who was very successful. And we’re trying to figure out how we’re really doing in the district. And that’s something we matched for February 15, when we previously announced it. In the meantime, because we have tests available, we are making them available to our families. Especially when our students seem to be symptomatic,” Pekel said.

RPS said in early December that 35% of primary school students were fully vaccinated and 73% of secondary school students.

RPS is also recruiting for several positions to avoid further staffing issues.

The district is holding walk-in interviews from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on February 2.

The hiring event is at the Edison Building.

RELATED STORY: Rochester Public Schools Switch to Remote Learning

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