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RPS discusses fate of fall school year and resource officers

Miguel Octavio
Created: July 14, 2020 10:40 PM

(ABC 6 News) - While we don't know what the state will decide, we know parents can enroll their children to distance learning at Rochester Public Schools if they don't feel comfortable with classes in-person.
 
Governor Tim Walz will announce whether classes statewide should be in-person, online, or a mix of the two by the week of July 27. 
 
A task force of 163 people made up of teachers, parents, and experts from the Mayo Clinic are working on how to safely carry out the three plans at RPS.
 
The decision is maybe one of the most complex decisions that any school district ever has to make, said Jean Marvin, vice-chair of the RPS board, during Tuesday night's meeting. 
 
"I wish there was an easy fix but there just isn't," Marvin said. "I just hope people know we hear you and we feel absolutely all those things that you're feeling."
 
Masks will not be required for now when classes begin at Longfellow Elementary School on July 27. The City of Rochester currently has a face mask mandate inside public buildings but the rule does not apply in schools. 
 
Board members also brought up the role of school resource officers.
 
Data from the 2019-2020 school year shows student referrals to law enforcement were up even though distance learning shortened classes in-person.
 
There were 220 referrals to law enforcement in the recent school year compared to 189 in the 2018-2019 school year. Not all incidents which include alcohol and tobacco use, fighting, or traffic violations lead to charges.
 
School board members did not blame school resource officers but said it's worth exploring whether other options exist to avoid the risk of school-to-prison pipeline scenarios. Board members said they plan to hold another study session on the topic.
 
"There's an opportunity to address many of these non-violent behaviors and we should probably do what we can to discover what those opportunities may be," said Don Barlow, RPS board director.
 
Board members also reviewed the number of times students were sent to the office, also known as "Level II Referrals."
 
Black students received disproportionate referrals at 38.6%. They make up 14.4% of enrollment. White students received 32.9% of referrals. They make up 57.8% of enrollment. 
 
The district is working with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights to address issues related to disparities as part of a statewide effort. 
 
To view the full school board agenda, click here

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