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RPS parents protest district’s learning model decision

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ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) -- The Rochester Public School board is taking a lot of heat from parents who are upset with the board's learning model decision.

On Monday afternoon, about 20 parents and children, gathered outside the district's Edison administration building in protest.

Maisie and Patricio Gargollo

"We as parents are very frustrated because we feel that there is a lot of decisions being made that very, importantly, impact our children. And we're not understanding why some of those decisions are being made," said Patricio Gargollo, co-organizer of the protest.

The group had signs and cheered as cars honked, as they drove by.

Signs read, "RPS is Safe," and "Hey School Board time to listen to the families that elected you."

A young girl held a two sided sign that read, "I miss my school," and "2nd grade shouldn't be my gap year."

Parents are hoping the school board hears their concerns.

Nicholas Pulos and his son Ryan

"And also making sure they know that we are listening to them. And would like to hold them accountable and make sure that they are hearing the voices of our children," said Nicholas Pulos.

First grader, Maisie Gargollo wishes she could have stayed in school full time.

"I miss my teacher. I miss my school. I miss everyone in school," she said.

In December, Gov. Tim Walz announced school districts could choose to go back to in-person learning full time by Jan. 18.

However, last week the RPS board made the following decision for learning that begins Jan. 19:

Grades PreK-2 will start hybrid learning.
Grades 3 to 5 will gradually begin that model as well.
Grades 6 to 12 will continue distance learning.

The district also consulted with public health officials regarding its decision.

"While there's not no risk with children the risk may be lesser. But it is still there anytime you bring people together," said Graham Briggs, Olmsted County Public Health Director during the Jan. 5 board meeting.

"Do we want people to get sick? Of course not. Is it probably going to happen yes? Unfortunately, it probably is, but the data suggests that those infections aren't sufficient to keep our kids out of school. They don't justify that approach," said Gargollo.

However, there are some RPS parents that are comfortable with the board's decision.

"I know that it's not necessarily ideal lot of parents, having their kids only back in part time. But I really think that there needs to be a balance between not only the health of the students, the health of the teachers, the health of the staff, and the health of the community really," Nelson said.

The Minnesota Department of Health reports that as of Thursday, one school in Rochester has had an outbreak of five or more people and that was reported at Lourdes high school, under its hybrid learning model.

Last week, school board chair Jean Marvin said she hopes February meeting things will change and all students will be able to learn in-person full time.

The RPS board is inviting parents to participate in the board's listening session on Thursday.

Gargollo said he has submitted multiple questions that parents want answers to.

KaMaria Braye

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