RPS explains ‘no school’ days for staff planning and development

Published: Nov. 24, 2021 at 10:34 PM CST
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ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) – On Tuesday, the Rochester Public Schools (RPS) Interim superintendent, Kent Pekel informed parents and district staff that four Wednesdays through December and May will be used to help improve student learning.

“We are going to ask that students not report because frankly we really need to give teachers, administrators, other staff time to look at data to talk about what they’re seeing in students’ needs during the pandemic and put in place plans to meet those needs,” Pekel said.

The dates are:

  • December 8
  • February 9
  • April 20
  • May 11

“There will be four of them and it will be placed during the school year. In the middle of stretches of three or four weeks where we would normally have no other break where staff could do this kind of work,” Pekel said.

He said the non-teaching days are for staff planning as well as for their well-being.

“We also hope that they’ll talk about how they are doing because how the adults in the school do affect how the kids are doing,” Pekel said.

Many teachers felt the burden of how the pandemic made learning unpredictable.

“It’s the constant change, the anticipation, coming in on a given day knowing, thinking you have everything covered and then turning on a dime,” said Chad Schroeder, Washington Elementary School Principal.

The learning changes during the pandemic had an impact on students’ learning.

“Rochester kids made significantly less growth over the course of the 18 months in the pandemic in reading and math than they normally do,” Pekel said.

He said RPS the grades with the most concern were 4th and 5th graders.

RPS parent Kristin Baudoin, a mother of a 6th grader is all on board with the district’s effort to support its educators.

“For them to be able to have that extra day of planning to work with students while they are in quarantine. It’s necessary but it’s also, it’s a mental health break to not have to deal with those everyday challenges,” she said.

However, some parents are concerned.

One viewer on Facebook wrote:

“I’ve gotten some very concerned emails and a little on social media about this. I was very very concerned about the parent impact and the learning time impact. I think that if we don’t take this time we are going to setting our kids up to working with overwhelmed educators, and that’s not going to benefit the kids. We are really hoping that our community youth-serving organizations will step up and help with childcare. We’ll have our Rochester school-aged childcare operating in full on those days. We know that doesn’t meet all of the need but it’s a piece of the puzzle,” Pekel said.

Pekel hopes youth-serving organizations like the YMCA, Boys and Girls Cub, Cradle 2 Career, and faith-based organizations can help provide care for children who are not enrolled in the district’s School-Aged Childcare program.

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