Handful of families hold peaceful demonstration against RPS board

Miguel Octavio
Updated: January 12, 2021 10:47 PM
Created: January 12, 2021 10:31 PM

(ABC 6 News) - Rochester's youngest learners will soon be back in the classroom under Gov. Tim Walz's approval.

Hybrid learning will begin for pre-K to elementary students starting Jan. 19. but that won't cut it for some families. 

A handful of families held a peaceful demonstration Tuesday afternoon outside the Edison Administration Building against the Rochester School Board and its policies. 

"Our rollout plan is super slow and we just don't know why," said Patricio Gargollo, a parent of three. 

Gargollo said his kids' behaviors aren't the same because of distance learning. 

"I worry about their mental health. I worry they're getting behind in school," Gargollo said. "The data says it's safe and we want to get our kids back in safely."

Families are also asking RPS to include more input from parents in their decisions. 

"We really want to partner with them. Whatever the concerns are, we want to help," Gargollo said.

But some families are also asking for more transparency with the school board's decisions. 

"It's frustrating because we hear them say, 'No,' but we don't feel like there's a good explanation," said parent Brandi Dahl.

The board met for hours during its Jan. 5 meeting discussing in-person learning concerns for reasons like the community's virus rates, a potential post-holiday surge, and the school district's size.

In the end, the board voted to postpone plans for in-person learning for elementary students. The original resolution called for a gradual return to in-person among pre-K to elementary students by March 1.

While hybrid learning plans moved forward, Superintendent Michael Muñoz has the authority to change the model if deemed necessary under the modified resolution. 

Parents like Dahl said it's difficult watching the impact distance learning has on her high school son.

"It pulls at my heart because I know he can do so much better," Dahl said. "I know he would thrive more at school and it's just not happening at home."

Some parents still said they're thankful for the board's efforts but now is the time to act.

"I want to thank the board. They're in a very difficult situation," Gargollo said. "We want to be allies with them and move forward. Get our teachers, get our students in the right place, safely at the right time."

RPS is holding a listening session with parents on Thursday, Jan. 14.

The school board is expected to revisit in-person learning discussions during its Feb. 2 meeting. 

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