All remote start for Rome schools

Too many obstacles to start fall with in-person instruction, superintendent says

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The Rome City School District will operate completely remotely through at least the first six weeks of the coming school year, Superintendent Peter C. Blake announced today.

In a letter to parents and posted on the district’s website, Blake said it has become clear there are too many obstacles to have in-person instruction, from the lack of being able to detect asymptomatic cases, cost of testing, the need for more staff to implement social distancing, transportation logistics, the need for teachers to teach both remotely and in-person, and the burdens that would be on families if someone is suspected of an illness or actually becomes ill.

The district will assess the situation regarding the COVID-19 pandemic locally and beyond in early October, Blake said.

“We know that our schools play an important role in providing stability and safety for our students, families and staff, and we understand that this decision can pose a hardship for families. However, our leadership team believes this decision is in the best interest of our entire community’s health, safety and well-being,” Blake wrote.

“As with any model of instruction in the reopening of schools, there will still be challenges and issues that arise with complete remote learning. We are aware that the experience must be different than what students and families experienced in the Spring of 2020. Our leadership team also recognizes that this topic can be very polarizing within any community, as people have strong opinions, beliefs, and evidence to support any side of this discussion. This decision has not come lightly and while it is not the popular decision, it is the best decision amongst a list of less than perfect options.”

Blake listed a series of meetings where parents may ask questions: meetings will be held on Monday, August 17 at 7:00 p.m., Wednesday,

August 19 at 2:00 p.m., and Friday, August 19 at 7:00 p.m. and will all be held via Zoom. Also, parents can continue to utilize our reopening email for questions, rcsdreopening@romecsd.org.

In a video message on the website, Blake noted that some schools across the country have had to re-close after just a day or two of being open, and that enforcing precautions like social distancing has proven difficult for them.
 
Guidelines on masking and distancing are vague, and a major obstacle is that if any student tests positive, it could lean to invasive and strict quarantining for the child’s family and as many as 500 people from within the school, Blake said.
 
In addition, schools do not have expertise and capacity to conduct testing on-site, Blake said, and it may be hard to hire enough personnel, which would be costly as well, he added.
 
“Simply adding 50 to 100 staff members probably is not a viable option for us moving into the school year.”
 
And protecting health in-person would likely make education a lower priority, he said. “Our goal as an educational institution is to provide the best education to all students regardless of how that education is delivered.”

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