2020 Summer Meals for RPS Students
Rochester Public Schools

Rochester Public Schools participates in the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP). 

Meals are served free of charge to all children 18 years old and younger. Meals will consist of a lunch with breakfast included for the next day.

In order to ensure the safety of volunteers and residents, those picking up food at the grab and go sites will need to practice social distancing protocols at the drive-thru events.

  • Vehicles will pull up to the designated drive through location
  • Drivers MUST remain in their vehicle
  • Drivers will open their trunk remotely and the meals will be placed in the trunk. If placing the meals in the trunk is not an option, the meals will be placed in the back seat of the vehicle.

Grab and Go - Drive and Walk Up Locations

These locations are open weekdays, from 11:30-12:30 PM, starting June 10th - August 21st. 

Mayo High School

1420 11th Ave SE (Door 2C)

John Marshall High School

1510 14 St NW (Door 8)

Riverside Elementary

506 5th Ave SE (Parking Lot)

Elton Hills Elementary

421 Elton Hills Drive NW (Parking Lot)

Grab and Go - Mobile Locations

These locations are open weekdays, starting June 15th - August 21st. 

Meadow Park

4th Ave & 14th St (11:00 -11:15)

Oak Terrace/Parkside

Park Lane (11:30 -11:45)

Andover Apts. SE

8 1/2 Street (12:00 - 12:15)

Jefferson Elementary

1201 10 Ave NE (North Side of School) (11:00 - 11:30)

Gibbs Elementary

5525 56th Street NW (Parking Lot) (11:30 - 12:00)

Bishop Elementary

406 36th Ave NW (Parking Lot) (11:30 - 12:00)

Empowerment Center

40th St NW (11:45 - 12:15)

Please note: All locations will be closed on July 3rd.

Lincoln 5th Graders Place Third in National Thomas Edison Innovation Foundation Competition
Rochester Public Schools

This is the first time a Minnesota team has placed in the top three of this national competition. Alexa Schmidt, Benjamin Werner, Charlotte Cummings and Zoe Chen, known as Team Chair Affair, competed against 180 teams from across 21 states. Their mission: Come up with clever inventions to help make the world a better place. Mission accomplished. 

“Their innovative ideas, dedication to a team, leadership, problem solving and communication skills that our kids display really do change the world,” said Vandi King, Gifted and Talented Specialist at Rochester Public Schools. “I’m hoping that these students have moved from seeing themselves as a student interested in science and engineering to someone who sees themselves as a scientist and engineer.” 

King began to mentor Team Chair Affair in February during recess and other classroom time. When schools moved to Distance Learning, King and the students continued meeting through Google. The students researched Thomas Edison, worked on their design, and innovation of their own invention. Chair Affair’s idea consisted of the Electricity Maker, “EM”. Team Chair Affair created a kit to add to the many advantages of a ball chair in the classroom. These balls are proven to help kids focus and get exercise while learning but what if they could also help power their classroom? These kits would generate enough energy to charge students’ electronics and maybe even a light bulb. 

“Every year I look forward to find this type of perseverance and leadership in students to share these competitive moments with,” added King. 

Typically, the students would have been invited to pitch at the Thomas Edison National Historical Park in Orange, New Jersey. However, due to COVID-19, Team Chair Affair participated virtually in the Elementary School Round on Thursday, May 13. They had an opportunity to pitch their invention alongside their teammates to a panel of three expert judges. Team Chair Affair took third place out of over 500 students entering the contest from across the United States. First place went to The Grab and Go Robot from Florida, second place went to The 3R’s app from Texas. 

Watch Team Chair Affair’s pitch: https://www.thomasedisonpitch.org/watch-pitch-contest-2020 

(Lincoln K-8 presents third, beginning at 13:41 in the 19 minute video) 

A reminder to families on Primary Care, Immunization visits, and COVID-19 Screenings.
Rochester Public Schools


Mayo Clinic and Olmsted Medical Center continue to be available to support the health care needs of your children and family. They are both oering expanded telemedicine options and in-person appointments allowed by federal and state executive orders and guidance.

Your health and safety is always a top priority for both Mayo Clinic and Olmsted Medical Center. They have taken several extra precautions to protect your safety during in-person office visits. For example, they are asking everyone to wear masks. They also have instituted enhanced cleaning, robust screening, new procedural guidelines and COVID-19 testing strategies.

You can request in-person and telehealth appointments through Mayo Clinic Patient Online Services or Olmsted Medical Center MyChart or by calling your primary health care provider’s office.


During the past month of COVID-19, many children became due or late for vaccines routinely recommended. Vaccines lessen children’s risk for disease and injury. With safety measures now in place, face-to-face vaccine visits can resume for children who are due or past due for their vaccines.

If you come for an in-person appointment, you will learn more about these safety precautions prior to your appointment. These enhanced measures will help keep you, your care team and all of our patients safe. Thank you for following them.

For other healthcare sites, there may be a slightly different approach to get the vaccines due.

Please contact your primary care provider’s office to schedule your child for his/her immunization appointment.


Upon scheduling appointments at Mayo Clinic and Olmsted Medical Center, COVID-19 screening questions will be asked. Children must have a negative COVID-19 screening questionnaire to be scheduled for nurse or provider visits. Scheduling sta may also contact parents within 48 hours in advance to confirm COVID-19 symptoms are not present in anyone attending the appointment.

Only one parent can come along with a child at Mayo Clinic; at Olmsted Medical Center this is highly encouraged. Children and the parent will be screened again at the clinic entrance upon check-in.


Olmsted Medical Center

  • Family Medicine: (507) 292-7183
  • Pediatrics: (507) 292-7188
  • Nurse Triage line: (507) 292-7266
  • OMC website: http://www.olmstedmedicalcenter.org/

Mayo Clinic

  • Family Medicine (FM): (507) 284-5300 (Baldwin 2)
  • Community Internal Medicine (CIM): (507) 284-5278 (Baldwin 4, 5B, 6A, 6B)
  • Community Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine (CPAM): (507) 284-5233 (Baldwin 3)
  • Kasson (FM): (507) 284-3967
  • Northeast CPAM, FM, CIM) (507) 538-8500
  • Northwest CPAM, FM, CIM) (507) 538-8555
  • Southeast CPAM, FM, CIM) (507) 293-8590
Rochester School Board Elections
Rochester Public Schools

Filing for School Board offices for the 2020 ballot will begin Tuesday, May 19, 2020, at the Office of the City Clerk, Room 104, at 201 4th St SE, Rochester, Monday through Friday from 8 AM – 5 PM. Filing ends June 2 at 5 PM.

Candidates are encouraged to call the Clerk's Office at (507) 328-2900 or email elections@rochestermn.gov to schedule a time to file, or to learn about other filing options, including by mail or delivery service.

For more information on the election process: https://www.rochestermn.gov/departments/city-clerk/elections

RPS Students, Teacher Honored in the 2020 MN Aspirations In Computing Awards
Rochester Public Schools

Rochester Public Schools (RPS) is proud to recognize three students who will receive awards in the upcoming celebrations. Additionally, an RPS educator will be recognized with the coveted MNAiC Educator Award for 2020. 

Achieving MNAiC Rising Star recognitions are Camilla Evans and Ashley Villar, both of John Marshall High School. Camilla and Ashley are two of 37 Minnesotans to be recognized as Rising Stars. 

Achieving MNAiC Certificate of Distinction is Chloe Hammes from Mayo High School. Chloe is one of 53 awardees in this category. 

Recognized as the MNAiC Educator is John Bartucz, Computer Science and IT Teacher from CTECH. 

“I am proud that MNAiC has recognized three incredibly talented women from Rochester Public Schools,” said Mr. John Bartucz, RPS Computer Science and IT teacher at CTECH. “They are demonstrating interest and aptitude in technology. It is my hope with their leadership and passion for technology, other women consider a pursuit in studying and working in this important field.” 

All of the young women from Minnesota being honored all share a common desire to develop and utilize technology to solve a host of community and social issues. 

Superintendent of RPS Michael Muñoz credits the students’ resiliency and hard work, and their engaging teacher for the continued recognition from MNAiC. “Mr. Bartucz is very deserving of this honor. His energy for technology, computing, coding, and teaching cultivates a space of curiosity, challenges, and successes for our students.” 

Due to COVID-19, the award ceremonies which were originally scheduled to occur in April are being offered as virtual celebrations in May and June. The top-level awards ceremony to honor 43 recipients is set for May 20th. The Rising Star event to honor 37 recipients will occur on June 20, followed by a Certificate of Distinction event on June 27, to honor 53 awardees. 

#OneMN highlights local commitment to unity in fighting COVID-19

Titled “OneMN: Together,” the one-minute video features Olmsted County residents representing different ages, backgrounds, and occupations. Rochester Public Schools (RPS), Olmsted County, and the City of Rochester teamed up to create the video in response to reports of people in our very own communities being stigmatized or discriminated against.

“COVID-19 does not discriminate, yet there were reports throughout the state and the country of people experiencing discrimination because of misconceptions about the virus,” explains Executive Director of Communications, Marketing, and Technology at RPS, Heather Nessler. “We hope this video demonstrates that we are a community battling the virus, not each other.”

Stigma and discrimination hurt everyone by creating fear and anger towards other people. COVID-19 is a common enemy and individuals each play a role in stopping the spread of the virus and stopping stigma by knowing the facts and sharing them with others.

In April, Governor Tim Walz and Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan launched a Discrimination Helpline in Minnesota, protect the civil rights of Minnesotans and to provide support for individuals affected by COVID-19 stigmatization. Community members experiencing or witnessing bias and discrimination can report incidents to the Minnesota Department of Human Rights. Every Minnesotan can contact the Discrimination Helpline at 1(833) 454-0148 or complete and submit this online form. The helpline is staffed Monday through Friday, 8:00 AM to 4:30 PM.

“As stated in the video,” says Nessler, “We will get through this together.”

For the latest information about COVID-19 in Olmsted County, visit www.co.olmsted.mn.us/COVID-19. For questions related to COVID-19, contact the COVID-19 Community Hotline at (507) 328-2822.

#OneMN: Together video

#OneMN coloring page

Capturing our current experiences with Covid-19 through art
Rochester Public Schools

The Covid-19 quarantine is a defining part of our history that we will talk about for generations. Now is the time when ordinary moments become extraordinary moments. Our goal is to capture these raw emotions from our schools and greater community and share them in a space that is accessible to everyone.

"During this time people have stories to tell, moments to document, and feelings to express,” said John Marshall Art Teacher, Lisa Becker. “We are reaching out to the community of Rochester to unleash their potential as an artist, maker, and storyteller. Our hope is that this project grows so that we can include voices and representation from all ages, backgrounds, and industries.” 

Two methods are available to share these feelings; postcards with a new prompt each week will act as the canvas for community members to express thoughts and feelings. They are self-addressed and no postage is required, or artists can use the digital platform to submit art. The digital platform will be regularly updated, and will even share some community art.

Postcards can be picked up every Wednesday, beginning on Wednesday, May 6, from 11-12 p.m. at select RPS meal service locations including Riverside Central Elementary School, Homestead Village, and John Adams Middle School. They will also be available for pickup on Wednesdays from 5-6 p.m. at John Marshall High School during the evening meal service. Proper social distancing procedures will be practiced to ensure the safety of our community. 

Following the collection of our postcard art, we will create an installation from these artworks and artifacts to be displayed for our community. We look forward to partnering with Threshold Arts at Castle Community. Threshold Arts Director Naura Anderson says, “This is a great opportunity to creatively capture the experiences of our community during the COVID-19 crisis, and we are thrilled to present a selection of the submissions in our Turret Gallery at the Castle.” 

We look forward to sharing this collaboration with our greater community and displaying this project in the near future.


A Message from the Rochester School Board
Rochester Public Schools

Due to the current federal and state emergency declarations and guidance about limiting person-to-person contact due to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, all meetings of the Rochester Public Schools (ISD 535) School Board will be conducted in accordance with Minnesota Statute 13D.021 - Meetings by Telephone or Other Electronic Means - until further notice.

Consistent with the federal and state guidance, the Board Chair has determined that an in-person meeting is not practical or prudent because of the current pandemic.

As a result, until further notice, all Rochester Public Schools (ISD 535) School Board meeting will take place at 5:30 pm at the district office, 615 7th Street SW, Rochester, with one or more board members possibly participating by telephone or other electronic means. 

In accordance with Minnesota Statute 13D.021, members of the public are not permitted to attend this meeting due to the current health pandemic. Individuals may monitor this meeting from a remote location by visiting our School Board Youtube Playlist or youtube channel at youtube.com/ISD535 where they will find the live-stream video.

If anyone would like to make a public comment at the Board meeting, please email your comments to Wendy Edgar by 3:00 PM on Tuesday, and please include your name, address, and phone number as per our normal public comment procedure.

Every 1 Counts: 2020 Census
Rochester Public Schools

Rochester Public Schools is committed to educating our staff, students, and families about the 2020 census because it shapes our future, provides funding that directly benefits our students, and is a celebration of who we are as a community. Starting in mid-March, you will receive your first invitation in the mail to participate in the 2020 census. Completing the census is your civic duty - it’s a way to participate in our democracy and say “I COUNT.” You can complete your census online, by phone, or by mail. 


Everyone counts.
The census counts every person living in the U.S. once, only once, and in the right place.

Census data are being used all around you.

Residents use the census to support community initiatives involving legislation, quality-of-life and consumer advocacy.

Businesses use census data to decide where to build
factories, offices and stores, which create jobs.

Local governments use the census for
public safety and emergency preparedness.

Read more on the Census 101: What You Need to Know document.

Want to know more about the 2020 Census? Visit 2020census.gov.


Alternative versions of the video above:
AmharicAnuakArabicBosnian CroatianChinese (Mandarin)DinkaFrenchHmongKarenKarenniKhmerNuerSomaliSpanishVietnamese

Paving the Way with P-TECH 535
Rochester Public Schools

P-TECH 535 will be Minnesota's first version of a pioneering school model aimed at preparing young people with the academic, technical, and professional skills required for 21st Century jobs and ongoing education. P-TECH 535 represents the best of what public-private partnerships can look like, with students taking high school and college coursework simultaneously, as well as engaging in industry-guided workforce development. Students will participate in a range of workplace experiences, including mentorship, worksite visits, and paid internships.

P-TECH 535 spans grades 9-14 and enables students to earn both a high school diploma and a no-cost, two-year postsecondary degree or industry credential. While P-TECH 535 encompasses six years, students can move at their own pace, enabling some to accelerate through the model in as little as four years. 

“P-TECH 535 is just one more way that we are working to meet the needs of our students in Rochester Public Schools,” said Superintendent Michael Muñoz. “Our vision for our P-TECH graduates is that they have the academic and professional skills required to either continue their education in a four-year postsecondary institution or secure employment into entry-level careers in one of our two pathways; Computer Information Systems and Licensed Practical Nursing.” 

The first cohort of P-TECH 535 students will be enrolled in fall 2021. We anticipate 25-30 students will be enrolled annually in each pathway. Application for P-TECH 535 enrollment will be open to all Rochester Public Schools students that will be in 8th grade beginning Fall 2020.

P-TECH 535 will follow the “school within a school” model. The location for the P-TECH programming has not been determined at this time. Initial community partners are IBM and Mayo Clinic.  In the coming months, we will be seeking additional community partners.

Information about becoming a P-TECH 535 Student

  • The first co-hort of students will start in Fall 2021. This means our current 7th grade students will be the first students to apply to P-TECH.
  • An application for P-TECH 535 enrollment will be open to all Rochester Public Schools students who will be in 8th grade in Fall 2020. Interested students will be asked to complete a short application during their 8th grade year. The short application will ask for basic demographic and contact information, how a student heard about P-TECH, and why a student is interested in P-TECH.
  • Students will only be able to apply and enroll in P-TECH 535 when entering 9th grade.  If, however, a student changes their mind at any point after they are enrolled, they may un-enroll and return to their home high school.
  • There are no pre-requisites required to apply.
  • There will not be a test or specific academic grade requirements in order to be accepted.  
  • More information about the program, when applications are available, and/or how to volunteer will be forthcoming.


2019 Graduation Rates Show Gains in Subgroups
Rochester Public Schools

he Minnesota Department of Education has released the Minnesota Report Card with 2019 graduation rates for the State of Minnesota. Rochester Public Schools’ graduation rate is 85.9% this year, compared with the State average of 83.7%.

Rochester Public Schools is celebrating several accomplishments with the release of the data. The four-year graduation rate for our three comprehensive high schools is 91%. The District has seen a gain in the subgroups of Asian, Hispanic/Latino, Black, Special Education, and Free and Reduced Price Lunch students. The results are located below for your review. 

Superintendent Muñoz attributed the growth in many of our subgroups to our focus on social-emotional learning and equity. “We focus on developing relationships with students and identifying the individual needs of students,” said Superintendent Muñoz. “I am proud of the work at all of our schools. Our teachers, support staff, and administrators are identifying programs and interventions to address students’ needs.” Multi-tiered interventions, more social and emotional support, and an increased number of educational pathways for students are several additional factors attributing to RPS’s graduation rates. 

RPS 2019 Graduation Rates
Category 4-Year Percent (RPS) 4-Year Percent (Minnesota)
All Students 85.9 83.7
Asian Students 92.9 87.6
Hispanic Students 79.6 69.9
Black Students 80.3 69.9
White Students 87.8 88.7
Two or More Races 79.5 72.3
EL Students 65.7 67.2
Special Education Students 66.3 63.0
Free Reduced Lunch Students 76.4 71.0


RPS is expanding two middle school academic programs.
Rochester Public Schools

Highly Gifted Programming Expansion

At our middle schools, the HG program is designed to meet the unique educational, social, and emotional needs of highly gifted students while allowing the students to participate in a regular middle school experience. The program provides rigorous content at an accelerated pace in four advanced subject disciplines: science, social studies, mathematics, and language arts. Additionally, highly gifted students will participate in standard offerings such as music, physical education, and exploratory classes.

We have offered HG services since 2007 at Friedell Middle School. In 2017, we expanded HG services to Kellogg Middle School. Beginning in fall 2020, we will be expanding the services to John Adams Middle School. 

As more of our students continue to be identified as highly gifted, the diversity of the program continues to grow, and access to HG services are extending to more of our middle schools. 

We are pleased to share that some of our teachers are currently participating in a local gifted certification program that runs from January through May 2020. 

In addition to HG services at Friedell, Kellogg, and now John Adams, RPS offers gifted and talented programming at all of our schools. Our K-12 gifted program is designed to meet the academic, creative and affective needs of gifted and talented students through a collaborative partnership between staff, students and families.


Spanish Immersion Expansion

RPS has a District-wide K-5 Spanish Immersion program at Gage Elementary School. The program began six years ago with kindergarten and we have expanded a grade level each year since then. Our 5th-grade students are now ready to transition to middle school. 

The District will be expanding the Spanish Immersion program next fall to two courses, social studies and Spanish language arts, in 6th grade for our current 5th grade SI students. The District-wide program will be located at Willow Creek Middle School. 

As the name implies, students in the Spanish Immersion program are immersed in the Spanish language in all subject areas starting in kindergarten. Students become fluent in Spanish first by reading, listening, speaking and writing exclusively in Spanish. Then in the upper grades, some lessons are taught in English to familiarize students with academic language in English. The middle school SI will support students in the daily use of Spanish while continuing to grow their academic skills in English before high school. 

High School student grades Grading for Learning.
Rochester Public Schools


The words “Grading for Learning” resonated in my ears. My first reaction was, “Oh no, what is this?” to which my psychology teacher, Mr. Lunde, would point out was an example of classically conditioned resistance to new and unfamiliar things. But now I have applied “semantic meaning” to this grading and teaching concept, and I’m here to share that with you all! ​


First thing’s first, I will outline why I believe this concept is beneficial to students. Throughout my academic career, I have been involved in many social justice causes. One underlying theme of my involvement and advocacy is reaching equity for everyone, especially for marginalized populations. It is the responsibility of those in power to take action in reaching that said equity. I believe as an educated, able-bodied, U.S. born citizen, it is my responsibility to contribute to this fight for equity. I also believe that as educators, it is your job to do the same! And one step you can make to reaching that equity for everyone is adopting the concept of Grading for Learning into your classroom. The whole idea behind this new grading and teaching style is to make learning accessible and fair for each student. For so long there have been practices that have made it difficult for some students to succeed; before or after school make-up times, extra credit that involves access to transportation, homework that requires access to wifi or external support… you get my point, right? There may be a small population of students that this applies to, but I guarantee 9 times out of 10 that they are also facing other hardships. So why not make it easier on them? I am one of those students and I will tell you how this grading and teaching concept has changed my path of success. ​

Personal Experience

Back in junior year is when I first experienced what Grading for Learning really is. I signed up for the rigorous AP Calculus BC. (In hindsight that probably wasn’t the best idea without having had Calculus AB, but the more you know!) I had no idea what to really expect because I hadn’t known anyone that had already taken the class—my usual method of gauging my success in a class! My fear and anxiety were elevated from the very idea of taking that class, but I was committed to the challenge of “all APs”—for students, specifically sophomores, reading this, don’t do this! (I’m warning you!) The first day of class rolls around and our teacher, Mr. Wagner, makes a surprising announcement to us: “There will be no graded homework assigned for the year.” My internal thoughts went from shock to confusion to pure excitement! No homework for the entire year? Sign me up! I hadn’t known the “why” at the time, but that didn’t change the positive effect that it had on me. In that class, I was able to truly learn without the fear of failing because our teacher allowed us to work and learn at our own pace. Yes, we learned lessons as a class, but he worked with each individual student to find out how he could best support them. We were able to retest and prove our knowledge of those monstrous standards, which personally did a lot for my self-esteem. That year was really tough for me; I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety due to outside forces, so his effort in supporting each and every student’s learning was greatly meaningful. The impact that Mr. Wagner had on me was immeasurable and I will forever be grateful for experiencing such an equitable and supportive model of grading and teaching. And I can guarantee your students will feel the same way as you ease your way into Grading for Learning! ​

Kashanti Taylor, Class of 2020

No Bell Time Changes, For Now.
Rochester Public Schools

Bell times for the 2020-2021 school year will not be changing, for now. The school board tabled the options for changes to the start time in order to gather more feedback from stakeholders, as well as additional research. 

Bell Time Study Background

Two options were presented in November to the school board as potential solutions for a later start time for secondary students, one start time was earlier for elementary students and the other option was later. The school board asked for feedback from the community, staff, students, and parents. The District hosted a Thoughtexchange in the month of December. More than 7,200 people participated, with a total of almost 10,000 thoughts. You can find this summary on BoardDocs. 

Take a deeper dive into the feedback on the Thoughtexchanges:

 Staff, Parent, and Community ThoughtExchange

 Student ThoughtExchange

The District also hosted a live-streamed meeting from 6 - 7 PM on Wednesday, December 11 with Dr. Auger from Mayo Clinic. A recap and replay of this meeting is available below. Around 50 people attended the meeting. 

The goal of the Thoughtexchange and community meeting was to determine if one of the options was more favorable, or if the District needed to pursue other options. Additionally, the goal of the feedback was to extrapolate themes that are important to our students, as well as our community, parents, and staff.

After reviewing the feedback, the Bell Time Committee made adjustments to the proposed start time schedules due to instructional time, calendar days, and budget costs. 

On February 10, at a study session, the school board discussed additional options and gave the District redefined parameters with the expectation that two options would be available as a briefing item for the February 18, 2020 school board meeting.

On February 18, the school board received these options and had a robust conversation about school start times. After further consideration, the school board decided to hold on implementation in favor of gathering more feedback from stakeholders, and more research specifically in the area of elementary school students and their learning. As a procedural matter, Chair Seelinger suggested the school board move one option to action and vote it down so that the topic could be removed from future agendas until the additional input is ready to present. 

The District will bring back a recommendation after further work and additional feedback. School start times for the 2020-2021 school year will remain the same, with more conversations occurring in the upcoming months. 

Update: February 1, 2020

Bell times for the 2020-2021 school year have yet to be determined. Conversations on bell times will continue through the month of February, first with a study session on February 10 at the Facilities Services Center (3935 Hwy. 14 E.), and a tentative presentation to the school board on February 18, 2020 at the Edison Board Room (615 7thStreet SW).

Update: December 12, 2019

The District has been researching changes to our bell times for years. We are considering a later start time for our students as early as Fall 2020, but it is important to hear from our students, parents, staff, and community members before we make any decision. Initially, the District studied the cost of one start time across the district for elementary and secondary students. This would require changes to our busing schedule which would cost us an additional six million dollars per year.

So, a committee of approximately 15 individuals throughout the District studied the pros and cons of two different start time options. We presented these options to the school board on November 12th. 

We’re exploring both options for a variety of reasons including our increased emphasis on social and emotional health. We believe sleep is a major contributor to our students’ wellness.

On December 11, the District hosted a community meeting in order to seek feedback on these options. A replay of the community meeting is available on our YouTube Channel. The meeting began with a sleep presentation by Dr. Robert Auger from Mayo Clinic. The District's information on both options was presented as well. 

We're asking our parents, staff, students, and community members to provide their feedback through a Thoughtexchange. This exchange will be open until December 20, 2019. The District will compile the themes from the exchange, along with the feedback from the community meeting, and present them to the RPS School Board in late January. 

A side-by-side comparison of the current bell times, compared with the proposed options is a helpful resource when considering which option is more favorable to you. 


2020-2021 School Year Calendar is released
Rochester Public Schools

At the January 28 school board meeting, the board approved the 2020-2021 calendar with a pre-Labor Day start for district schools. An early start was highly supported by our community, by more than 76% majority in survey results from last month. This start date will also benefit building projects taking place during the summer of 2021.

Here are the highlights:
• First day of school* – August 31, 2020
• First day of kindergarten – September 1, 2020
• School will be closed on Election Day - November 3, 2020
• Last day of school – June 4, 2021
• Graduation – June 5, 2021

District Calendar:

Longfellow Calendar:

*Step Into Learning is an altered start to the traditional start of the school year. Some of our elementary schools, Bamber Valley, Bishop, Elton Hills, Folwell, Franklin, Montessori at Franklin, Gibbs, Jefferson, Lincoln, Pinewood, Sunset Terrace, and Washington, will use the first two days of school, August 31 and September 1, as student conference days. Parents and guardians will be contacted by their school to make an individual 30-minute appointment in August.

The early start will not impact age cut-off for entrance into kindergarten. Rochester Public Schools follows Minnesota State Statute §120A.20 (Admission to Public Schools) and Minnesota State Statute §120B.5 (Gifted and Talented Student Programs).

This is a one-year calendar. Other calendars moving forward have yet to be determined.

RPS ranks alongside top Twin Cities districts with AA credit rating.
Rochester Public Schools

What is a credit rating?

A credit rating is an independent and forward-looking opinion about the ability of an party to meet its financial obligations in full and ontime. Credit ratings provide transparency for our district on our credit worthiness and insight to make more informed decisions on our financial infrastructure. 

What rating did Rochester Public Schools receive?

Rochester Public Schools recently received a AA rating from S+P Global Ratings, which puts our credit rating among the top of Minnesota Public School Districts. Only three districts in the state rank higher than RPS.

S+P found our management team to be forward-looking and scored well on their financial management assessment with an extremely strong tax base and overall low debt service.

Here are some highlights from the report: 

  • The board has debt and investment management policies, and also provides an investment holdings and earnings report to the board monthly. The district has a formal policy of keeping an unassigned general fund balance of at least 6% of expenditures, which it has historically achieved.
  • Following four years of use of general fund reserves, to align the fund balance with the 6% policy, the fiscal 2018 and 2019 audits ended with surpluses. With the construction of the new facilities, management would like a larger cushion of reserves to help with cash flow as expenses grow along with its facilities' footprint.
  • The school district uses enrollment counts and four years of historical trend analysis to develop budget assumptions and follows a formal budgeting process that includes board-approved budget adjustments twice a year. It produces a five-year financial forecast and a 10-year capital plan that includes funding sources, both of which are updated annually and available publicly. Officials have a facilities task force to make recommendations to the board about the current facility expansion. The district is also taking measures to ensure strong cybersecurity practices.
  • With the issuance of the bonds, its outstanding debt is more than doubling and amortization is moving to a more average pace at 49% in the next 10 years. In our view, the district's overall debt burden is moderate at $3,196 per capita, but debt service is low at 2.6% of market value. The district plans to issue $40 million of additional bonds in 2020, which we believe will not materially change its debt profile. It has no private placement or direct purchase debt obligations.
National School Bus Safety Week
Rochester Public Schools

Organizations to Collectively Observe National School Bus Safety Week

The Rochester Police Department (RPD), Rochester Public School District and First Student will be taking steps to recognize the 2019 National School Bus Safety Week, which will take place October 21-25, 2019. The theme this year is "My School Bus, The Safest Form of Student Transportation!"

Locally, law enforcement is working on an update to the stop-arm violation complaint process. In the past, if the bus driver did not include all of the elements of the crime, required by statute, the cases became inactive. Now all reported violations will be assigned to officers to conduct follow up. In addition to the change in the process, RPD is also working with First Student and the schools to implement an education component to help the bus drivers better understand what evidence is required to successfully prosecute violators.

RPD is also implementing proactive efforts where an officer will ride on the bus to witness violations first hand, having a second officer in a squad car to immediately stop and cite the violator. Through all of these actions, the intent is to reduce and, hopefully, eliminate motorists who not adhere to the laws when buses are stopped.

Chief Jim Franklin shares, “The safety of our children is of utmost importance. Recently, we have seen an increase in the number of motorists who are not complying with the stop-arm law. This law is vitally important to the safety of children getting on and off buses. We ask all motorists to be aware when they approach a bus.”

Held during the third full week of October each year, National School Bus Safety Week is an active and evolving public education program and an excellent way for parents, students, teachers, motorists, school bus operators, school administrators, and other interested parties - to join forces and address the importance of school bus safety.

“Annually, the Rochester Public School District works with our partners at First Student to provide our students training and education on bus safety. Every student in grades kindergarten through tenth receive a classroom lesson plus a hands-on school bus lesson,” said Michael Muñoz, Superintendent of Rochester Public Schools. “We train all students, even walkers, so they are familiar when they ride buses for field trips, and have general pedestrian awareness.”

First Student has increased its safety measures with stop-arm cameras to rotate between some of their school buses. “We train our drivers to report stop-arm violations,” said Jon Goetz, Location Manager for First Student. “The safety of students is our most important priority, and we believe the stop-arm cameras, in conjunction with the stop-arm violation process, will help protect our students even more.”

There are recommended tips for drivers, which will make school bus transportation safer for everyone:

  • When backing out of a driveway or leaving a garage, watch out for children walking or bicycling to school.
  • Slow down. Watch for children walking in the street, especially if there are no sidewalks in neighborhood.
  • Be alert. Children arriving late for the bus may dart into the street without looking for traffic.
  • Learn and obey the school bus laws in your state, as well as the "flashing signal light system" that school bus drivers use to alert motorists of pending actions:
    • Yellow flashing lights indicate the bus is preparing to stop to load or unload children. Motorists should slow down and prepare to stop their vehicles.
    • Red flashing lights and extended stop arms indicate the bus has stopped and children are getting on or off. Motorists must stop their cars and wait until the red lights stop flashing, the extended stop-arm is withdrawn, and the bus begins moving before they can start driving again.
Energy Saving Success
Rochester Public Schools

RPS Find Energy Savings Success
Partnership with Cenergistic Delivers $500,000 Savings in First Year

In celebration of hitting a significant milestone, Rochester Public Schools today announced that the district has reduced enough energy consumption to recover more than $500,000 in utility expenses since partnering with Cenergistic, a national energy conservation company.

Working with Cenergistic engineers and experts, RPS implemented a comprehensive energy conservation and sustainability program in 2018 to reduce energy consumption and utility costs. 

“In just over a year, we are recovering a significant amount of our utility budget thanks to Cenergistic’s program,” said RPS Superintendent Michael Muñoz. “This program has helped us save much-needed funds while also creating a culture of sustainability within our staff and students. We acknowledge there is more work to be done to balance maximum energy efficiency and comfort.”

RPS personnel work closely with Cenergistic engineers, experts and the Energy Specialist to audit and optimize energy-using systems across the organization to achieve peak efficiency. The Specialist tracks energy consumption at all campuses to identify and correct areas that need immediate attention. Savings are calculated using third-party energy-accounting software.

This hand-in-hand relationship has resulted in tremendous success. The carbon emissions avoided from the energy program equate to approximately 7.6 million miles driven or the energy use of 530 houses in a year.

A primary benefit of the Cenergistic program is that all costs come out of the existing utility budget, with savings projected to more than pay for the program. The environmental benefits of the program contribute to a reduced carbon footprint and will help RPS qualify for ENERGY STAR® certification with the Environmental Protection Agency in the near future.

About Cenergistic
Since 1986 Cenergistic has helped 1,400+ K-12 districts, institutions of higher education, governments and health care facilities find $5.4 billion and counting in hidden electricity, natural gas and water savings by applying our advanced software platform and sustainability-as-a-service solutions. Organization leaders can reduce utility spending by 20–30 percent annually with no capital investment while improving the comfort and quality of building environments. For more than a decade, Cenergistic has been recognized by the Environmental Protection Agency as ENERGY STAR® Partner of the Year or Partner of the Year – Sustained Excellence.