Start a conversation on social media about Rochester Public Schools' back-to-school plan (if you dare), and get ready for a wide range of responses.
That's what happened Friday when RPS shared its "Return to School, Base Learning Model" on social media — and when the Post Bulletin reported on it, then posted the story on Facebook.
"I do not think any part was done correctly," said Nicole Hollar, a Rochester mother of elementary-aged children. "I don't feel distance learning is the option. I feel school should be open for those who feel comfortable going and the ones that don't can stay home and do distance learning."
Not everyone agreed. In fact, a survey of RPS parents showed many preferred their child go back to school at least in part, if not completely. That's the plan RPS delivered Friday, saying that for the foreseeable future, kindergarten through fifth grade will use a hybrid model: two days in class, three days at home. Secondary students, grades 6-12, will exclusively use distance learning.
While some people didn't see what they wanted from RPS, others saw the decision as the best one under the current COVID-19 circumstances in Olmsted County.
"I think they spent a ton of time analyzing what they thought would be best for all kids," said Marta Bollesen, who is not an RPS parent but has been engaged in the process as part of her work for The Arc Minnesota, a nonprofit organization that provides information and assistance to support people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
"I don't know if it was the plan I expected to see, but I was not surprised by it," she said.
In fact, dip into just about any social media discussion on the topic, and answers will range from displeasure that any students will go back for in-person learning to displeasure that all students are not returning to school when RPS opens its doors — and websites — on Sept. 2.
There is also a thirst for more information on topics ranging from how students with special needs will be helped to concerns over child care for parents who work during the day.
"I’d prefer to see the plan where the kids coming back to school 100 percent," said Mark Diez, a grandparent of five RPS students — four elementary-aged, one in high school — who also spent many hours volunteering in the classroom of his grandkids.
Diez said there are two main advantages to a full return to school. The main one is that — he said this is especially true among younger students — that kids struggle when not in the classroom. The second advantage is the kids will be engaged during the day, which won't happen in a household where the parents work outside the home during the day.
"I see how much the kids have been hurt by not having in-room classes," he said.
Hollar agreed, saying kids who are home don't learn as well as when they spend time with a teacher and their classmates.
"They need that structure," she said. "I think it will affect kids as at-home is not that type of learning environment. Anxiety will set in whenever we do go back fully or anywhere as they will become to used to being home. Depression and sadness from not being in sports, seeing friends and always being home. It is just not healthy."