Rochester School Board discusses cyber event, SROs

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(ABC 6 News) – Students and teachers at Rochester Public Schools went back to school Tuesday, but not quite like they’re used to.

The district is still recovering from a cyber attack that led to a shut-down of technology district wide. The resounding message at the Rochester Public School Board Meeting Tuesday night was a big thanks to district teachers who had about one day to restructure their curriculum.

“Our schools went old school today,” said Superintendent Kent Pekel.

Classes were cancelled Monday to give teachers time to adjust.

School on Tuesday consisted of pencils, paper, worksheets and overheads – a big change from the laptops and tablets schools have come to depend on.

“I was in five schools and we saw overheads that had long been left for the relic of history pulled out and engaged,” Pekel explained.

The shutdown also lead Mayo High School to cancel its ACT test scheduled for this weekend.

However, Pekel said in the board meeting Tuesday night that the lack of technology didn’t impact students’ attention spans.

“Students were absolutely in every school I was in – focused. Teachers were creative and administrators were engaging kids in the halls.”

Pekel did not give any information on when the district’s network would be back up and running -meaning it could be more pencils and paper on Tuesday.

But the board was confident the interruption wouldn’t have an impact on learning.

“You know, our teachers are not just technology. They know how to teach. It’s who they are. It’s what they do. And they are doing a tremendous job,” said Dr. Jean Marvin, a school board member.

The board also provided an update on their discussion into whether or not to keep student resource officers around in the district.

Last month the school board asked the superintendent to look into alternatives to SROs. Some board members say that they’re not convinced SROs are the best way to keep students safe.

Pekel says he’s bringing in an outside expert to examine whether or not SROs are a good fit for Rochester Public Schools, and he says that expert has experience with alternatives to campus-based officers.

“We have been hard at work at that. We have identified someone who has extensive experience in this area who is preparing a report and presentation for the board that you will receive,” Pekel explained.

The board was supposed to vote on whether or not to keep school resource officers by May 1. At the meeting, the board extended that deadline so they have more time to discuss.

The board is expected to receive the SRO report on May 2.