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Rochester and Winona schools partner for online learning

The partnership resulted from Winona Area Public Schools no longer offering its own online program.

WAPS RPS online
Winona Area Public Schools and RPS Online will partner this fall for online learning.
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ROCHESTER — The school districts of Rochester and Winona are partnering this fall for students who want to continue learning online rather than in a traditional classroom.

Per the agreement, Winona students will be able to take classes from RPS Online, the new Internet-based program Rochester Public Schools created in the wake of the pandemic.

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"Our hope is to replicate this partnerships with other districts," said Brandon Macrafic, principal of RPS Online.

According to a press release, the partnership resulted from the fact that Winona Area Public Schools was no longer going to offer its own online program.

The partnership will represent a source of income for Rochester. According to the contract between the two districts, Winona will pay RPS $375 per student per semester class, or $2,250 for a full-time student.

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The contract also includes a "no recruitement" clause, saying that neither side will "affirmatively recruit any of the other party’s students who attend RPS Online School."

As of Wednesday, there were nine Winona students signed up for RPS Online this fall. An information sheet submitted to the Winona Area School Board indicated there were 24 students interested in the online program. Overall, RPS Online has 330 students registered for the fall so far.

Minnesota allows students to open enroll into school districts they don't live in. So, students living in Winona could have signed up for RPS Online anyway.

This agreement, however, allows both school districts to benefit. If a Winona student were to open enroll into Rochester, RPS would get the entirety of the state funding attached to that student.

"This allows us to provide the online learning opportunity to the student and the family, but it also allows Winona to keep a portion of that state aid," Macrafic said. "It allows the student and the family to remain connected to their home district."

Jordan Shearer covers K-12 education for the Post Bulletin. A Rochester native, he graduated from Bemidji State University in 2013 before heading out to write for a small newsroom in the boonies of western Nebraska. Bringing things full circle, he returned to Rochester in 2020 just shy of a decade after leaving. Readers can reach Jordan at 507-285-7710 or jshearer@postbulletin.com.
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