Rochester parents favor more in-person schooling

Dec 3, 2020

ROCHESTER — Out of the 292 Rochester parents who responded to the town school district’s survey on how the academic year is going, roughly 83% favored increased in-person learning opportunities.

The “overwhelming response,” as Superintendent Michael Nelson put it, was to a question asking how comfortable parents would be with their child returning to increased in-person learning opportunities, even if it leads to using spaces such as gyms, auditoriums and cafeterias as classrooms.

The full survey data, presented at a Dec. 3 Rochester School Committee meeting, favored a shift toward more in-person learning days per week, as well as a push to have all students in the building going forward. 

The district is currently teaching students in a hybrid model, meaning that their learning experience is a mix of in-school and at-home teaching. Students are split up into cohorts by last name. Each cohort has two days a week in the building, two days at home, and everyone learns remotely on Mondays. 

But the model has drawn criticism from across the Old Rochester Regional School District. In Mattapoisett, parents have banded together to form Mattapoisett Concerned, a coalition advocating for the return to in-person schooling for younger elementary students. 

Out of Rochester Memorial’s 508 students, 422 are splitting their time between in-person and remote learning, 60 are learning fully at-home and 26 are being homeschooled. 

In the same survey, about 78% of parents said they would be able to transport their children to school if some of the current remote learning days were shifted to in-person days. 

This may help the school if the district decides to return to full in-person learning. Due to state covid restrictions, school bus capacity is stifled to 32%. But Nelson said the state may soon revise its coronavirus transportation guidance.

Rochester Memorial reported its first two cases of covid-19 in the school on Dec. 7. 

Nelson said the district doesn’t have immediate plans to bring students back into school full-time.

Rochester School Committee Chair Sharon Hartley said the committee agrees that there should be a push to bring the school’s youngest students back in full-time because they would benefit from it the most.