Buried in the Rochester Public School announcement that in-person classes for elementary students would be suspended until 2021, was the fact that RPS had no intention of opening schools all along. For the first time, parents were told that their threshold for in-person learning is fewer than 10 COVID-19 cases per 10,000 people, a significant deviation from the governor’s guidelines. More importantly, it violates the Equity Statement RPS issued in September “to be actively and intentionally anti-racist” and “work to undo historical and current racist policies or actions.”

Black students in Rochester disproportionately rely on public schools. When RPS decided to close its doors, they put their students at a disadvantage. If achievement scores decline substantially during summer vacation, what will an entire year do to our RPS students? For certain, we are in the midst of a very serious COVID surge, and critical action is needed to stop the spread. However, we cannot in good faith close schools in the name of limiting community spread when everything from bars to daycare centers remains open!

Whether you support universal pre-K or school choice, we can agree that a policy that disproportionally affects black students needs to be critically re-examined. The path RPS has chosen disproportionately affects black students, putting them at a disadvantage compared to their peers in private and parochial schools. Let us do our part in Rochester to address structural inequalities and support the children in our community by reopening Rochester zpublic Schools.

Nicholas Pulos, Rochester

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