Rome schools shift to remote

Increase in bus drivers with COVID scuttle district’s ability to transport students, superintendent writes

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The Rome City School District has switched from in-person instruction to remote education for its K-12 students, effective today, Friday, Oct. 1, through next Friday, Oct. 8, as a result of transportation issues stemming from a rise in bus drivers testing positive for COVID.

In-person instruction will resume on Tuesday, Oct. 12, the district said.

The move was outlined on Thursday afternoon in a letter from Superintendent Peter C. Blake to district families and staff. According to the state’s online schools COVID-tracker dashboard at https://schoolcovidreportcard.health.ny.gov/#/home, there have been 412 COVID-19 tests reported among students and staff within the district’s boundries over the past seven days, including 71 positive cases since Wednesday, Sept. 29.

“I hope this message finds you well as we continue to persevere through challenging times and operating our schools. Throughout the last few days, we have seen a significant increase of bus drivers testing positive for COVID, and as a result we will not be able to transport students that are in need of transportation to attend school,” Blake’s letter begins.

“As a result of this shortage, students in grades K-12 in the Rome City School District will be shifting to remote learning beginning on Friday, October 1, 2021 and ending on Friday, October 8, 2021 with students returning to in-person instruction on Tuesday, October 12, 2021,” the letter reads, adding that “Reminder that Monday, October 11, 2021 is
Columbus Day/Indigenous Peoples Day and all school facilities are closed.”

“This decision does not come lightly as we understand what a vital part of education in-person learning experience are for our students and how our schools support families throughout the community,” Blake wrote. “However, without the ability to transport students, we cannot continue to keep schools open for in-person learning. Below are some important bullet points regarding remote learning for the coming week:

Daily instructional schedules will follow the traditional in-person bell schedule;

All pre-k programs will continue to operate in-person (the early childhood program does not use school transportation);

Supported Learning students and general education students who attend full-day out-of-district programs will continue to be transported to their programs on a daily basis;

Supported Learning students from RFA who attend half-day programs at BOCES will be notified in the near future regarding transportation to their programs;

CTE students from RFA who attend BOCES programs half-day may continue to attend their BOCES program in-person, if they are able to self-transport;

Grab and Go meals will be available at all school buildings each school day from 11 a.m. to noon;

Student athletes will be provided information in the near future regarding transportation to/from home for after school practices and competitions;

All staff will be reporting to work through the duration of this event and teachers will instruct students from their classrooms; and

All extra-curricular building activities can continue to operate throughout the duration of this event.

“As always, thank you for your patience, understanding and flexibility,” the superintendent’s letter adds. “On behalf of our entire school community, I apologize for the inconvenience and understand that this is not the situation that any of us want to be in. Please continue to practice healthy habits, and be safe, smart, and supportive of each other. We are hopeful that you are able to make the best of these challenging times,” it concludes.

Picente writes letter to Hochul
Oneida County Executive Anthony J. Picente Jr. has contacted Gov. Kathleen C. Hochul to seek emergency assistance from the state to keep schools open in Oneida County.
 
In a letter dated Thursday, Sept. 30, Picente stated that a shortage of bus drivers, coupled with a rising COVID-19 infection rate, has resulted in the Rome City School District announcing it would be switching to remote learning over the next seven days for its nearly 6,000 students.
 
"As I'm sure you can appreciate, this action will cause an incredible hardship on our working families, who with no notice, are forced to find care for their children," Picente stated.
 
The Utica City School District is also facing similar hardships and other challenges, and Picente said without action, the situation will only worsen throughout the fall and winter months.
 
"Remote learning has caused too many children from our neediest families to fall further behind in their emotional, intellectual and social development," the letter states. "In addition to foisting a new unexpected burden on families, it also negatively impacts our local economy and employers."
 
"We must do better," he said. "We have come too far as a state and a community for this to be an acceptable alternative."
 
Picente went on to request "immediate action" from the governor to help alleviate the crisis.
"Whether it is deploying the National Guard to drive buses or requiring school districts to amend hours of operation to stay open, I am open to discussing any valid solution," the county executive said. "I am requesting you take action to put our children's education" and well-being "first. For too long in this pandemic their needs have been treated as secondary."

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