COVID-19 Advisory Team Update on Vaccinations, Secondary Schedules, Returning to In-Person Learning.
Rochester Public Schools

As a reminder, the COVID-19 Advisory Team consists of the Superintendent, members of the School Board and Cabinet, union leadership, District COVID-19 team members, and officials from Olmsted County Public Health and Mayo Clinic.

There are a few updates we'd like to share with you:

  1. Vaccinations. Rochester Public Schools is responsible for providing opportunities for vaccinations. Currently, RPS has been able to offer 1,500 opportunities for staff. This is nearly half of our staff. The District is unable to determine how many staff members have received the vaccine due to data privacy.  
  2. Secondary Schedules. We have been discussing both block schedules and an 8-period day at the high school. The conversation around both schedules involved teacher support, student and family desires, and mitigation efforts to keep all students safe in either schedule. Your middle and/or high school administration will be sending parents a mid-year registration email detailing the school schedule and asking you to confirm your student's participation in one of two learning models: in-person or distance learning. 
  3. Returning to In-Person. Yesterday, Governor Walz shared his expectation that all schools offer some in-person instruction beginning March 8, unless a district has already released their learning plan prior to February 17, 2021. At the February 2, School Board meeting the Board voted to return PreK-grade 5 students all in person beginning on March 1 and to return all secondary students in person on April 5. The School Board will revisit this conversation on March 2 during their regularly scheduled business meeting. You can watch this meeting live at Youtube.com/ISD535. 

We appreciate your understanding and patience. We know this is one of the most challenging times for our students, families, and staff. We cannot underscore the importance of keeping our community healthy and safe. Our website offers information on our mitigation strategies and much more. If you haven’t yet, please take a moment to review the supports offered to students and parents/guardians.


On February 17, Minnesota’s Deputy Commissioner of Education, Heather Mueller, announced an update to the Safe Learning Plan. This plan was updated to align more closely with CDC guidance.

We will be reviewing this guidance thoroughly and discussing this with our COVID-19 Advisory Team, which consists of the Superintendent, members of the School Board and Cabinet, union leadership, District COVID-19 team members, and officials from Olmsted County Public Health and Mayo Clinic. Our team will meet tomorrow afternoon.

Our priority remains to return all of our children to school full time while keeping our staff and students safe. As guidelines evolve, we will continue to follow the science and ensure that we put our community, education professionals, and students in the best possible place during this pandemic and these historic times.

As a reminder, the most recent School Board decisions about RPS Learning Models:

  • PreK and Elementary School: Return to in-person learning model PreK - Grade 5 on March 1
  • Middle and High School: Return to in-person learning model Grades 6 - 12 on April 5

We know these are challenging times, and we sincerely appreciate your support, patience, and partnership in education.

Sincerely,

Rochester Public Schools

RPS Reviews Enrollment Projections
Rochester Public Schools

Enrollment projections form the basis of the next year’s revenue budget which is why reviewing these numbers is of importance for the district. 

On February 19, the Minnesota Department of Education released enrollment data for Minnesota schools. The change in the number of students enrolled in Minnesota prekindergarten through grade 12 schools is driven primarily by younger students with a 9% drop in public kindergarten enrollment between the 2019-20 and 2020-21 school years. Conversely, there was an increase in the number of younger students choosing nonpublic options, with a 12.4% increase in kindergarten enrollment between the 2019-20 and 2020-21 school years. The most significant increase is seen in the number of students in home school—a 49.5% increase from last school year. Additionally, the decline in enrollment broken down by race and ethnicity shows that while most demographics held relatively steady with slight increases in enrollment over the 2019-20 school year, the vast majority of the decline in enrollment in public schools is seen in our white students. Statewide, white student enrollment saw a 3.7% decrease from the previous school year which translates to more than 20,000 students. To read this full report, visit MDE online.

In October 2020, Rochester Public Schools enrollment declined to 17,635 students. It is believed that was primarily because of the COVID-19 global pandemic. Last year, the projection for October 2020 was 18,446 students. This means the projection was missed by 811 students but it was an actual decline of 661 students. On September 1, 2020, the reasons given for leaving Rochester Public Schools were:

  • 25% moved out of the local area
  • 21% moved out of state or country
  • 13% paid for private school
  • 13% chose homeschooling (not the same as distance learning)
  • 11% had not provided a reason for leaving
  • 8% enrolled in an online school (for distance learning but not RPS distance learning)
  • 6% open-enrolled into another local district like Byron, Stewartville, Pine Island, or Dover-Eyota
  • 1% enrolled in a local public charter school
  • 1% refused services
  • <1% dropped out
  • <1% entered a GED program

Five-Year Historical Enrollment

5 year Historical Enrollment for years 2016-2020

Non-Public, Charter, and Home School Options

Non-Public, Charter, and Home School Options for years 2011-2021

The projection indicates that the District is likely to experience increases in enrollment again in all the next five years. Based upon available data, the total District enrollment is projected to rise to 17,743 students in October 2021. This would be an increase of 108 students (0.6%) from October 2020. The projections are possibly conservative; staff have assumed 25% of the students who left for other options will re-enroll for 2021-2022 but that 75% of the students will stay with the option they chose in 2020-2021.

Projected 5-Year Enrollment for Rochester Public Schools

5 year projected enrollment for years 2021-2026

Overall, birth numbers in Olmsted County have been going down, but enrollment has gone up, meaning students not born here are moving into the District. These projection models are built with birth numbers as a starting point, and it gives the appearance that enrollment may be flat in the medium-term of 5 years.

The full presentation is available online for review or watch the playback at youtube.com/ISD535.

Elementary and Secondary Learning Model Updates
Rochester Public Schools

 
Here is the key information for now:

PreK and Elementary Learning Model 

  • Grades PreK - grade 5 to continue the hybrid model through the month of February and to return to full in-person learning, five days a week, beginning March 1. 
  • This means that beginning on March 1, PreK - grade 5 students will resume their pre-pandemic school start times of 9:10/9:15 AM and dismissal time of 3:35 PM. 
  • There will be no school for students on Wednesday, February 24 because this will be a Model Change Planning Day for teachers. 
  • Students that have chosen to remain in Distance Learning will continue with Distance Learning for the remainder of the school year. 

Secondary Learning Model 

  • Middle and High School students will return to in-person learning beginning on April 5, which is the first day of the fourth quarter. 
  • Students will resume their pre-pandemic start times of 7:40 AM and dismissal time of 2:30 PM for Middle School and 3:03 PM for High School. 
  • Students in grades 6 and 9 will participate in an in-person orientation day prior to April 5.
  • Individual schools will communicate schedule information with their students/families. 
  • There will be no school for students on March 17, March 24, and March 25 because these will be a Model Change Planning Day for teaching staff, pending Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) approval. 
  • The School Board will review district, local, and state data on March 16 at their School Board Meeting. If the data has significantly changed, indicating an increase in transmission, the Board may make adjustments to the start day of the learning model. 
  • Students will have the opportunity to remain in Distance Learning. Information will come directly from your school. 

Last Week of the Quarter Schedule for the Secondary Students:

  • Monday, March 22: Regular instruction day (Distance Learning Plus Supports) for students
  • Tuesday, March 23: Last day of the quarter AND a transition day for 6th and 9thgrade students (more information will be coming from your school)
  • Wednesday, March 24: No school for students. Teacher planning day, pending MDE approval.
  • Thursday, March 25: No school for students. Teacher planning day, pending MDE approval.
  • Friday, March 26: No school for students. District workday for grading.
MN launches Community COVID-19 Vaccine Pilot Program
Rochester Public Schools

Willow Creek Middle School has been chosen as one of the community pilot sites for Minnesota's Community COVID-19 Vaccine pilot program. We are excited about this opportunity and the ability to make vaccines available for our staff. More information on vaccines and who's being vaccinated can be found at https://mn.gov/covid19/vaccine/.

Please note that vaccines must be scheduled through the MN COVID-19 website listed above and that individuals should not call Willow Creek in an attempt to schedule an appointment. Vaccines are only available by appointment only, and walk-ins will not be accepted. Please do not visit Willow Creek unless you have a scheduled appointment.


*The following information is from the Minnesota Department of Health. Visit their website for the most up-to-date information.

Minnesota is piloting a community COVID-19 vaccine program, partnering with local public health and school districts, to place nine pilot clinics across the state. These pilot clinics will initially serve adults 65 years of age or older and prekindergarten through grade 12 educators, school staff, and child care workers. 

While the vaccines at the pilot clinics will be administered by experienced professionals under strict medical guidance, the pilot program itself is a fact finding mission, not a final destination. It’s a laboratory, not a finished product. The purpose of the program is to find out what works and what doesn’t work. Every step of the way, we will be evaluating where the program succeeds and falls short, including but not limited to registration, clinic flow patterns, and timing. In doing so, we hope to learn how to most safely, efficiently and equitably protect Minnesotans from COVID-19 through community vaccination. 

As the state continues to wait on the federal government to increase the supply of vaccine to Minnesota, we are doing everything in our power to move quickly on all vaccine we do receive. 

Every shot in the arm is another step toward crushing COVID and meeting the goal of getting millions of Minnesotans vaccinated as quickly and as safely as possible. 

It’s our responsibility to have the infrastructure in place to get the limited number of doses per week the state’s currently receiving quickly and safely into arms. And it’s our responsibility to be ready to do the same when that supply finally increases to meet the huge demand. These community pilot clinics will help us build an efficient, equitable distribution system all Minnesotans can be proud of. 

The community vaccination pilot program will be the foundation for mass vaccination clinics in Minnesota communities once the federal government increases vaccine supply. The nine pilot clinics will launch this week with a small number of doses for eligible Minnesotans. 

There is a very limited supply of COVID-19 vaccine in Minnesota. Minnesota has not yet received an increase in vaccine doses from the federal government. We encourage Minnesotans to remain patient as more vaccine arrives in the weeks and months ahead. 

While Minnesota is beginning to serve those age 65 and older, educators and child care workers, the state continues to serve healthcare workers and long-term care residents and staff in Phase 1a. This pilot program will help ensure that Minnesota has a robust process in place when more vaccine is made available from the federal government. 

Healthcare workers and long-term care resident and staff can still receive the vaccine through their workplace, care facility, or local public health. Minnesota remains on pace to offer at least first doses of vaccine to all in these groups by the end of January. 

Additional details on Phase 1b are dependent on decisions to be made by the federal government and will be available in the weeks ahead. 

WHO CAN GET VACCINATED NOW 

  • The state is beginning to vaccinate new groups of Minnesotans this week, including: 
    • Adults 65 years of age or older; 
    • Prekindergarten through grade 12 educators and school staff at public school districts, charter schools, tribal schools and nonpublic school organizations; 
    • Staff working in licensed and certified child care programs. 
    • The state continues to vaccinate the health care workers and assisted-living residents and staff in phase 1a and is on track to having provided at least one shot to all 500,000 Minnesotans in that group before the end of the month. 
  • Minnesota will provide more details on phase 1b in the coming weeks as the incoming Biden administration provides more guidance to states. 

PEOPLE NOT IDENTIFIED IN THIS IMMEDIATE PHASE 

  • Right now, vaccine demand far outpaces our supply. 
  • We continue to immunize for impact and opening up supply to adults 65 years of age or older helps us protect the Minnesotans most at risk from serious complications of the virus, while ensuring no doses are wasted. 
  • Getting the vaccine to our prekindergarten through grade 12 educators, school staff, and child care workers will also help ensure our kids can be in school. 
  • But we know there are Minnesotans who work in front line industries, those with underlying health conditions, and so many others who need access to the vaccine. 
  • We know it’s hard to be patient and it’s frustrating, but we simply do not have enough vaccine supply right now to reach everyone. 
  • We will get to you. As we get more vaccine supply, we will vaccinate more people. 

PILOT CLINICS / HOW TO SIGN UP 

  • In coordination with local public health and school districts, Minnesota is launching a pilot program this week to increase vaccination capacity in communities across the state and to prepare for the future when more vaccine is made available from the federal government. 
  • This pilot program will be the foundation for mass vaccination clinics in communities across the state for when we receive more vaccine supply from the federal government. 
  • There will be nine pilot clinics launched this week with a small number of doses for eligible Minnesotans. 
  • The pilot clinics are located in these nine cities: 
    • Brooklyn Center 
    • Andover 
    • Fergus Falls 
    • Mountain Iron 
    • Thief River Falls 
    • Saint Cloud 
    • North Mankato 
    • Rochester 
    • Marshall 

MINNESOTANS AGE 65 AND OLDER 

  • Appointments will be made by phone or on the website only. 
  • Beginning on Tuesday, January 19 at noon, Minnesotans age 65 and older can schedule an appointment online at mn.gov/vaccine or by phone 612-426-7230 or 833-431-2053. 
  • You MUST have an appointment. 
  • No walk-ins will be accepted, and anyone with the intention of walking in will be asked to leave and escorted out by security. 
  • No-shows will be filled from the waitlist only – not from people who just show up at a clinic. 
  • You can put yourself on the waitlist either through the call center or online – there is a separate waitlist for each pilot clinic. 
  • Making appointments for the second dose varies on which system the clinic uses. You will either sign up for your second dose when you make your appointment for your first dose, or you’ll make your second dose appointment during your first appointment. 

EDUCATORS, SCHOOL STAFF, CHILD CARE WORKERS 

  • The Governor has prioritized frontline education and child care workers that our healthcare system depends on to get kids back in school. 
  • Prekindergarten through grade 12 educators, school staff and child care workers will work directly with their program or school to sign up for a vaccine appointment. 
  • Due to the very limited supply of vaccine, appointments are not open to all workers in these sectors in the pilot program. The limited vaccine doses have been allocated to regions associated with schools and based on a percentage of the workforce in child care and education. 
  • School districts, charter schools, tribal schools, and nonpublic school associations will select who participates in the pilot. 
  • Child care programs will be randomly selected and notified to secure an appointment through the state-sponsored pilot clinics. 

FEDERALLY QUALIFIED HEALTH CENTERS 

  • From the beginning of the COVID-19 response the state has prioritized equity, because the health disparities that existed prior to the pandemic have been exacerbated by COVID-19. 
  • Continuing to center equity in Minnesota’s vaccine roll-out remains a top priority. 
  • As the state has received an extremely limited supply of the vaccine Minnesota is allocated from the federal government, this limited quantity creates challenges. 
  • The state’s planning includes provisions designed to ensure that vaccines are available in an equitable manner for those experiencing health disparities, especially Black, Indigenous and Communities of Color. 
  • To help ensure equitable distribution to communities that need it most in addition to these 9 pilot clinics, the state is working strategically with community clinics and other federally qualified heath centers who are well versed on how to serve Minnesota’s Black, Indigenous and Communities of Color, as well as the uninsured. 
  • As people 65 and older are at higher risk for severe outcomes or severe illness from COVID-19, getting the vaccine out to those 65 and older is in line with the state’s goal of immunizing for impact to protect those who have the highest risk of serve complication from the virus. 
  • And the health disparities we see among BIPOC communities are also evident in the 65+ category. 
  • Therefore, as part of this phase, the state is working closely with trusted community hubs, aiming to have staff who speak languages other than English and interpreting services, and other efforts to ensure that equity remains at the center. 
  • But we need more vaccine – and faster – to come from the federal government so that we can reach all Minnesotans who need protection from the virus. 

PROVIDER ROLE IN VACCINATIONS 

  • Minnesota’s physicians and health care systems are eager to help vaccinate all eligible Minnesotans against COVID-19. 
  • Your provider will let you know when they have a vaccine available for eligible patients. While more people are eligible to receive the vaccine now, the supply remains very limited. 
  • Providers will let patients know when they can start making appointments for a vaccine and the Minnesota Department of Health will keep the public updated on vaccine supply and priority populations. Because of limited supply, you do not need to contact your provider at this time. 
  • Most community vaccinators, such as primary care clinics, urgent care clinics, and pharmacies, do not yet have vaccine for broad public use. 
  • If you don’t have a regular health care provider, you may be able to schedule an appointment through one of the state clinics, though limited supplies mean there will be more demand for vaccine than there are available doses. 
  • Please be patient. More opportunities for vaccination will be coming as the state receives more vaccine. 
  • In the meantime, please continue to protect yourself, your loved ones, and your neighbors by wearing a mask, washing your hands, maintaining social distance, and staying home when you feel sick.
AMENDED - Beginning in Fall of 2021: Bell Time Changes Approved
Rochester Public Schools

On Tuesday, January 12, the School Board unanimously approved a change to start times for schools for the 2021-2022 school year, reversing their earlier decision.

The school day will now run from 8:20 AM to 3:30 PM for high school students, 8:20 AM to 3 PM for middle school students, and 9:35 AM to 4 PM for elementary school students.


After two years of studies, feedback, and community involvement, the School Board voted to accept option B. This change in school start and end times will coincide with the boundary changes beginning in the 2022-2023 school year. To watch a playback of the school board meeting, please visit youtube.com/ISD535.

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. 

 

Inclement Weather Procedure for 2020-2021
Rochester Public Schools

On October 29, MDE shared the Inclement Weather Guidance for 2020-2021. This guidance specifically addresses how schools may adjust their Safe Learning Plans in order to respond to inclement weather and possible school closures.

We feel confident in our capacity to deliver instruction virtually to all of our students while we are in hybrid and distance learning. The most compelling reason for closing schools is the safety of our students. In a normal year, all of our students would be attending school in-person. Due to the pandemic, the District has implemented a Safe Learning Plan that consists of distance learning. RPS has made significant investments in technology devices, connectivity, and professional development in order to efficiently deliver instruction to our students within these models.

Following MDE guidance, the District will not need to cancel school while in Distance Learning or Hybrid Learning Model(s). Instead we will continue our distance learning model on days when transportation is canceled due to inclement weather. The District will be canceling transportation services on Distance Learning days and Hybrid days.

UPDATED 2/2/21: Once the District shifts any of our learning models to full in-person, inclement weather days will resume as full inclement days (otherwise known as a traditional snow day) across all levels. This decision is made to align with MDE guidance from October 29 (i.e. If elementary schools moved to full in-person learning, inclement weather days would occur across all grades and learning models).

ROCHESTER PUBLIC SCHOOLS INCLEMENT WEATHER DAY INFORMATION FOR FAMILIES

Distance Learning (DL) 

RPS Schools will provide all instruction through distance learning. There will be no in-person instruction. The Mayo Clinic at ALC will be closed.

Transportation

Transportation services will be suspended. 

Providing Meals 

Meal service may be suspended depending on weather conditions. Any rescheduled opportunities will be communicated.

Child Care for Critical Workers (CCfCW) 

A limited number of spots will be available for Child Care for Critical Workers (CCfCW) at John Adams from 8:30 AM - 4 PM. Pre-registration for inclement weather day care is required, and  inclement weather day fees apply. Due to limited staffing, the regular school-based “pod” model may not be possible. Lunch service will not be available; participants should bring a lunch. Transportation will not be available for CCfCW. 

Before and After School Age Child Care (SACC)

Before and After School SACC will not be available.

RPS continues to Distribute Prepared Meals and Meal Kits for Students and Families
Rochester Public Schools

RPS is continuing to offer meal kit pick-up for all children 1-18 years old regardless of meal price eligibility. Students do not need to be enrolled at RPS to receive free meals. Students are able to receive one meal kit/week.

Meal Kits will consist of heat-and-serve and ready-to-eat entrees, fruits, vegetables and milk. Instructions for storage/preparation will be available online. No pre-registration or paperwork is required.

Daytime Meal Kit Distribution Dates:

  • February 5th
  • February 12th
  • February 19th
  • February 26th

Daytime distribution is from 10 AM - 12 PM.

Evening Meal Distribution Dates:

  • February 3rd
  • February 10th
  • February 17th
  • February 24th

Evening distribution is from 3:30 PM - 5:30 PM.

 

Both distributions can be picked up from Graham Park Building #35 at the Fairgrounds (1403 3rd Avenue SE).

Please enter at the 16th Street and Arena Dr SE. Proceed North to building #35. If able, please open/unlock your trunk or leave a seat open where the meal kit can be placed.

Please practice social distancing protocol. To keep everyone safe, please remain in your vehicle and let our staff know how many children you are picking up for. Children do not need to be present.

Pandemic-EBT Benefits for Families
Rochester Public Schools

Students who qualify for free or reduced-price meals may be eligible for Pandemic-Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) to purchase food for days they are not in the school building. To be considered, households must submit an application for free or reduced-price meals for the 2020-2021 school year or be approved for Minnesota Family Investment Program (MFIP) or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. Families who received P-EBT benefits last summer are not automatically eligible; eligibility is based on the current school year. Benefits may be retroactive to September 2020, depending on when eligibility for free or reduced-price meals is determined. To ensure you qualify for the most benefits, please submit your application as soon as possible.

Application for Educational Benefits - English
Application for Educational Benefits - Hmong
Application for Educational Benefits - Spanish
Application for Educational Benefits - Somali

RPS Students Report Positive Perceptions of School Despite Pandemic
Rochester Public Schools

The District uses an educational survey tool called Panorama Education. This survey is one important way that students have been able to share their voices and experiences while attending RPS. Panorama surveys have been administered to students in grades 3-12 a total of three times since Spring 2019. Additionally, secondary students (grades 6-12) had an opportunity to participate in a survey last spring during Governor Walz’s Executive Order 20-20, the stay-at-home order. 

The Panorama survey is grouped into various categories that address social-emotional wellness.  These categories are then able to be compared across school years, buildings, and various subgroups of students. 

The Fall 2020 Panorama survey demonstrated student resiliency amid COVID-19 struggles.

The category Sense of Belonging is defined as how much students feel they are valued members of their school community. The results show: 

  • An overall increase of nine points for grades 3-5 and three points for grades 6-12 in the category since the last administration of the survey.
  • In response to the question, “How much do you belong at your school?”, only 4% of responding students in grades 6-12 answered, “not at all”. 

The area of Teacher-Student Relationships also had moderate increases in students grades 6-12, which is up five points from Spring 2020. In grades 3-5, there was an increase of seven points from the last administration in Fall 2019. Nationally, RPS ranks between the 60th and 90th percentile nationwide in this category. “Such a positive student perception data speaks highly to the hard work of teachers,” said Michael Muñoz, Superintendent.  “Building relationships is critical but challenging, especially during Distance Learning.”

Mental Health and Education professionals nationwide are having conversations around the topic of emotional regulation. At RPS, little to no change was reported in this category from students between the Fall 2019 and Fall 2020 survey administration in either grades 3-5 or grades 6-12. Assistant Director of Student Services, Denise Moody, stated, “I view this largely as a success in that the majority of our students are not regressing in emotional regulation despite the unprecedent challenges faced between the two survey administrations.” 

The data in this survey represents only a portion of the student body’s general wellness. With this understanding, the district’s Emotional and Mental Wellbeing team offers a variety of supports intended to bolster the resilience of students, staff and families within the district. These include: 

  • Universal classroom social-emotional lessons to Grades Pre-k through 8,
  • Emotional and Mental Wellbeing professionals at each building to offer group or individual support,
  • Free, confidential, and anonymous online screeners for anyone who may be worried about their mental health www.mentalhealthscreeningtools.com,
  • Free, virtual consultations with a community mental health provider for caregivers to address concerns regarding their child’s mental wellness https://rochestermnschedule.as.me/ 
COVID-19 Update: Reaction to Governor Walz's Announcement
Rochester Public Schools

Next Phase Announcement 

Our next planned announcement regarding our learning model will be by January 8. On that date, we will be using the new elementary school guidance available to decide on a shift to either a hybrid or full in-person learning model at the elementary level. 

The District will continue the current learning model for the secondary students (grades 6-12) because that guidance has not changed. Decisions on after school activities and athletics will be shared as soon as they are available. 

On Wednesday, December 15, Governor Walz announced that elementary schools may choose to reopen as early as Jan. 18 with new mitigation measures in place. The Safe Learning Plan states:

Starting on January 18, 2021, every early learning program and elementary school across the state may choose to operate an in-person or hybrid learning model as long as they are able to implement the additional mitigation strategies...including a rolling start process in which students will gradually be brought back in the building. Early learning programs and elementary schools that are not currently in an in-person or hybrid learning model, or have not already announced their plans to implement their in-person or hybrid learning model prior to January 18, 2021 cannot move to in-person or hybrid before January 18, 2021. 

We have been reviewing many factors regarding this guidance which includes, but are not limited to, number of staff available for in-person instruction, ability to implement additional mitigation, transportation, special programming considerations, PPE, and the continued sustainability of these factors. It is a complex equation and we will be seeking information from both our staff and families in order to plan around these factors. Elementary parents are still able to choose all Distance Learning for their child(ren) if so desired. Your school will begin contacting families via email to gather this information beginning next week, December 21.

We look forward to sharing more information with you as it becomes available. I appreciate your patience and support as we work through the safest return possible for our students. 

Sincerely, 

Michael Muñoz, Superintendent 

*The District’s COVID Advisory Team consists of experts from Olmsted County Public Health (OCPH) and Mayo Clinic and membership of the School Board, District Cabinet, District COVID Coordinators, and union leadership.

RPS GIVES Humanity, Love, and Joy this Holiday Season
Rochester Public Schools

Their efforts support the following local non-profit organizations: Bear Creek Services, Paws and Claws, Christmas Anonymous, Dorothy Day Hospitality House, and Rochester Women's Shelter. 

This year created a new challenge for District students and staff to collaborate and brainstorm new ways to fundraise, show support, and inform our community of these opportunities and events for donating. Each school has been working tirelessly to create their own fundraising experiences, from poinsettia sales to online auctions, with the hope that they may bring some joy to the community.

“Each year, RPS students raise well over $100,000 which directly supports our local non-profit organizations. The unpredictability of 2020 has made this effort even more important for our community,” said Superintendent Michael Muñoz. “I am proud of our students, staff, and our families that have shown resiliency and creativity to adapt to new ways to encourage and support our local non-profits.”

John Marshall’s student body Vice President, Esme Decker, shared the sentiment from the JM students, saying, “Christmas Anonymous is completely supported by donations from the community and [they] are especially busy this time of year, gathering food, gifts, and warm winter clothing for those in need, no matter religious belief family age or any other factor.”

At the culmination of each event, there is typically a “pep rally” to unveil a large check with the total dollars raised over the past month. “To me that check symbolizes so much - the power of good in our community, how if we all come together in support for benefiting humanity, we truly can accomplish great things,” Mayo HS student Ojas Bhagra expressed “I hope that everyone will come together and make this the best most successful GOFA yet.”

Despite the challenges of COVID-19, RPS students remain resilient and dedicated. Kathryn Gardner, Century HS teacher and student government advisor added, “Even though it’s really hard to not be able to do our usual Bear Creek traditions, we are building some amazing new traditions in 2020 and really coming together as a community.”

To learn more about RPS Gives, and to donate, visit rochesterschools.org/gives.

RPS Begins Boundary Adjustment Process.
Rochester Public Schools
December 2020

For those that may have missed this meeting, our consultants provided an overview of the boundary adjustment process, detailed the role of the boundary advisory committee, and shared some guiding principles that we will be asking for you to provide feedback on via an online survey. To watch a replay of this meeting, visit https://youtu.be/nRj1hxQjpTA.

Here is how you can participate in the boundary adjustment process going forward:

  1. Feedback on high-level framework that will be used to assess how effective options are as we develop them. Our survey asks you to consider the following guiding principles and to select the top four that are most important to you.  You will use this survey tool to provide feedback. This survey will remain open until December 9 at 11:59 PM. Feedback from this survey will be shared with the School Board and to help inform their discussion on December 15th.  
  2. Consider joining the boundary advisory committee. The application closes on December 13 at 11:59 PM.  The School Board will be discussing the member selection process at the December 15 School Board Meeting. To apply to be part of the advisory committee, use this survey tool. 

The next meeting in which the boundary process will be discussed is Tuesday, December 15, beginning at 5:30 PM. To watch that meeting live, visit youtube.com/ISD535.


On November 10, 2020, RPS will begin the boundary adjustment process with a public discussion about the School Board’s role in the process. The boundary adjustment process will be led by Cooperative Strategies, a national consulting firm already familiar with the District.

Rochester Public Schools is currently designing and constructing four new schools. The schools are being funded by the voter-approved bond referendum that passed on November 5, 2019. The new NW elementary school will be located on Overland Drive NW, the new NW middle school will be located on 65th Street NW, the new Longfellow elementary school will be located a couple blocks southeast of the current Longfellow elementary school, and the new Bishop elementary school will be reconstructed on the same site after the current Bishop elementary school is demolished.

As part of the construction process, the District must redraw attendance areas (boundary lines) to include the new schools. The result of the process means most schools should have less students than they do today. In an ideal situation, schools will be balanced so they are approximately 90-95% at capacity, which allows for fluctuations in students over time and allows the new boundary lines to stay in place longer. The District last made significant boundary adjustments in 2008, effective for the 2009-2010 school year which coincided with opening the District’s then newest elementary school (Gibbs.)

The boundary adjustment process begins on November 10, 2020, with a public discussion about the School Board’s role in the process. The boundary adjustment process will be led by Cooperative Strategies, a national consulting firm already familiar with the District. As part of the process, Cooperative Strategies will work with a representative committee and will provide opportunities for public comment and feedback about the proposals as they are being developed by the committee. The first opportunity for the public to hear more about the boundary adjustment process and ask questions of Cooperative Strategies will be at an online meeting scheduled for December 3, 2020 at 6:00 PM.

The timeline for the boundary adjustment process has the School Board making a final decision on boundary adjustments by September 2021, effective for the 2022-2023 school year.

When will the 2021-2022 Calendar be available?
Rochester Public Schools

Meet and Confer consists of the superintendent, and representation from the school board, cabinet, and union (Rochester Education Association). This team considers multiple factors when creating the calendar, such as contract days, holidays, natural breaks, and school construction projects. Additionally, this team looks at whether Labor Day falls early or later. In instances when Labor Day falls later (September 6 - 7), the District will attempt to start school the week before Labor Day. This requires approval not only from the School Board but also from the Minnesota Department of Education.

Reporting COVID Cases and Making Appointments to Enter Buildings During Distance Learning
Rochester Public Schools

Dear RPS Families, 

Last Thursday we shared that a transition in our learning model to Distance Learning (DL) would be going into effect today, November 18. We also want to remind families that our goal is to bring our students back to our schools in-person as soon as it is safe to do so. To achieve this, we must work together. We are asking for your partnership and support in helping us achieve this goal. 

This communication will address two important updates for RPS families. 

  • Reporting COVID-19 positive cases
  • Visiting RPS buildings during DL
Reporting COVID-19 Positive Cases

During DL, we are asking our families to continue to report their children’s COVID-19 positive cases to their school buildings. We thank our parents and guardians in advance for continuing to share this important data with the District. 

Visitor Access to RPS Buildings 

Rochester Public Schools will be limiting access to our buildings to minimize unnecessary contact and the potential spreading of COVID-19, beginning today, Wednesday, November 18 through Friday, January 8, 2021. These dates are congruent with our Distance Learning period. Facilities will still be open but at a limited capacity. 

This means:

  • Parents/Guardians will be allowed to pick up students’ materials and/or personal items at school buildings by appointment after Wednesday, November 18. 
  • Parents/Guardians will be allowed into RPS school buildings without appointments only for drop-off and pick-up of emergency child care.
  • No other visitors will be allowed in RPS school buildings, with the exception of supply deliveries, US Mail, and other critical services.
  • School registration for new students, including incoming kindergarteners, will be available online or at the Edison Administration Building. In order to best serve our families, making an appointment for registration is highly recommended by calling (507) 328.4200. Preschool registration is also occurring at Northrop Education Building. Appointments for registration are highly encouraged by calling (507)  328-4024. Early Childhood Screening will be accepting appointments and holding virtual visits. To schedule your child’s appointment please call (507) 328-4004.
  • RPS Student Nutrition Services will be offering a meal kit pick-up for all children 0-18 years old regardless of meal price eligibility. Students do not need to be enrolled at RPS to receive free meals. Children can receive one meal kit each week. Meal kits will consist of heat-and-serve and ready-to-eat entrees, fruits and vegetables, and milk. No pre-registration or paperwork is required. RPS meals will be offered from 10:00 a.m. to noon on November 20 and 24, and December 2, 4, 9, 11, 16, 18 and 22 at the Olmsted County Fairgrounds, Graham Park Building #35 (enter north end of building). 
  • All other District services will operate during normal business hours. However, many of our staff are working remotely as advised by Governor Walz’s executive order 20-40. Making an appointment is critical to ensure someone is available to assist you. 
    • Communications & Marketing 328.4500 
    • Community Education 328.4000
    • Curriculum and Instruction 328.4301 
    • Early Childhood Family Services 328.4004
    • English Learners 328.4240 
    • Elementary and Secondary Education 328.4300 
    • Human Resources 328.4251 
    • Registration and Records 328.4200 
    • Student Advancement 328.4275 
    • Student Nutrition Services 328.4218 
    • Student Services 328.4310 
    • Superintendent’s Office 328.4256 
    • Transportation 328.4260

Thank you, parents and community members, for your continued support in education and helping take actions to protect one another, such as staying home if you are sick, washing your hands often with soap and water, covering your cough and sneeze, avoiding touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands, wearing proper face coverings, and avoiding large gatherings. 

Round II: Help Name Our School
Rochester Public Schools

Rochester Public Schools is building a new elementary school, part of our 2019 referendum plan. Situated in the Boulder Ridge area off of Granite Drive NW and Overland Drive NW, this new elementary school will be the District's 17th building to serve students in grades kindergarten through 5th grade.

Here is a reminder of where we are at in the process:

✔ 1. Community members will submit names between October 19 - November 1, 2020 (at 11:59 PM). There were three categories and specific criteria each name needed to meet to be considered to move to the next round.

✔ 2. A volunteer group of individuals from the Facilities Task Force and the Elementary and Middle School Design Teams reviews the names that meet the categories and criteria in early November.

3. The community will have a chance to rank their favorite names from five between November 16 - 29, 2020.

4. The School Board will receive the top two community recommendations and then vote on the official name of the school in December 2020.

RPS Launches Technology Helpdesk for Families
Rochester Public Schools


The Remote Distance Learning Technical Support Team for families and students will solve for issues like:

  • Support for standard software like Microsoft Office, Adobe, G Suite 
  • Support for some hardware like printers, Internet and Wi-Fi Connectivity 

Families and students will be able to receive support Monday - Friday from 7 AM - 7 PM by calling 1-(800)-789-0051.

COVID-19 Data & Update
Rochester Public Schools

Dear RPS Staff and Families,

I hope this communication finds you healthy and well. On Thursday, the District’s COVID Advisory Team met to discuss current data trends in our County. I want to share a few important updates with you based on those conversations and remind you of our timeframe when we announce our next steps as a District. 

COVID Advisory Team

First, the District’s COVID Advisory Team consists of experts from Olmsted County Public Health (OCPH) and Mayo Clinic and the School Board, District Cabinet, Student Services, and myself. We meet every two weeks to discuss data and communication needs. The purpose of our team is to make data-driven decisions that will protect our students and staff, with the ultimate goal of bringing our entire District back together, in-person, safely. 

Data 

I want to share an update from yesterday’s conversation. Olmsted County’s data continues to trend the wrong way. By this, I mean we see an increased number of positive cases. You can look at all data from Olmsted County here or watch a video from the Director of OCPH, Graham Briggs, here. A quick snapshot of the daily new cases based on a seven-day rolling average (updated 9/30/20) is below.

Covid Numbers Graphic to display the 7-day rolling average number of cases for Olmsted County.

What YOU Can Do To Stop the Spread

While this data is unsettling and concerning, there is some positive information to share. OCPH Director Graham Briggs shared yesterday, “we have seen very few cases in our schools, and we have not seen transmission between students in our buildings.” Lack of transmission between students is due to several factors; contact tracing, our partnership with OCPH, and our parents/guardians following public health guidance. The most important actions each of us can take to further protect our families include:

  • Staying home if you are sick
  • Washing your hands often with soap and water, covering your cough and sneeze, avoiding touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Practicing self-care by eating a healthy diet and taking time to rest
  • Frequently cleaning all commonly touched surfaces
  • Avoiding large gatherings
  • Wear a mask or proper face covering

Briggs echoes this message sharing, “The key to keeping children and school staff safe is working together to reduce risk, especially understanding the reasons when students or staff are asked quarantine, or stay at home.” The Center for Disease Control (CDC) defines quarantine as “separating and restricting the movement of people who were exposed to a contagious disease to see if they become sick.”

The District is continuing the following practices to help stop the spread:

  • We require students and staff to take the home screener before coming to school. 
  • Requiring the use of face coverings, and practicing social distancing where possible. 
  • If someone develops symptoms while at school, we follow the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) decision tree to determine if a child should go home or remain in school. The decision to send a student home from school when showing symptoms is solely based on keeping our students and staff safe. 
  • The requirement to quarantine is a critical step in stopping the transmission of this virus. The District follows the guidance of public health, based on current CDC recommendations. They are continually reviewing the most current science available. A child who is quarantined would not be allowed to participate in in-person school and activities until the end of their quarantine period. The District will work with these students to provide a distance learning option while they are out of the building. 

Both RPS and OCPH recognize the frustrations of parents and students when they are required to quarantine. We also know some members of our community are feeling ‘COVID fatigue’. We have to stay vigilant if we want to see students back in school and businesses fully open in a safe manner. We must commit to taking care of ourselves and each other in order to stop the spread. 

Educational Delivery Model - Reminder

Lastly, I want to remind you that we will be communicating any changes in our educational delivery model at the MEA break time. However, any changes would not occur until early November. We have not made any decisions at this time, and there are many variables. All families can expect to receive a survey from the District in the next week or so because we would like to hear from you about what is working with your child’s current model and what is not. 

We appreciate your patience and partnership in education. Together, we will get through this stronger!

Sincerely,

Superintendent Michael Muñoz

Fight the Flu: Schedule your Flu Shot for Fall
Rochester Public Schools

The flu vaccine is recommended, now more than ever, for people age six months and older. A rough flu season during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic could cause serious issues for our communities, further reduce school attendance and stretch health care availability.

GET YOUR 2020 FLU VACCINE NOW AT ONE OF THESE LOCAL SITES:

Mayo Clinic Family Fly Flyer Translations: