Rome, N.Y. - It has been just under six weeks since the Rome City School District welcomed students back into the classroom for hybrid learning.
Thursday night, the Rome Board of Education further discussed developments into welcoming in students full time.
On Wednesday, Rome Superintendent Peter Blake, along with eight other superintendents met with Shelly Mayer, the State Senate Education Committee Chair, to discuss government and education-related topics.
"The big three takeaways was that she did tell us that the State Health Department and the State Education Department have no intention of revising their August 2020 school reopening guidance documents,” said Blake. “And that we should not expect any changes or relief from either the State Health Department or the State Education Department from the guidance that was set in place in August 2020.”
Another note was that as of right now there isn't any information or thoughts about this fall's reopening of schools which hinders budget planning.
“That continues to be concerning and alarming for all leaders because we continue to reiterate to people that we are trying to plan budgets now for next year and if we know what to plan for, our budgets can be more sensible, we can put our resources in the right place, and we can make sure next year September re-opening schools is a lot more seamless and sensible than it was last year," said Blake.
After the passing of the new federal stimulus package by President Biden on Thursday, Blake added that Senator Joseph Griffo released a statement saying that he believes that the information on school funding may be underserving what they will receive. Which can help assist in planning reopening strategies for the district.
“We are committed to getting kids in five days-a-week,” said Blake. “It does seem like all agencies are leading towards plastic barriers being the solution to the problem. I don't believe that's a wise investment of funding. If we need to do this for next year then that may be a different story, but if it's a Band-Aid that will help us get from the middle of April to the end of June spending roughly $500,000 on plastic that's going to go in the storage shed in two years when we could use social workers, counselors, support staff, teachers, I think our money would be better invested in the students education.”
Blake goes onto say even if they were to order the plastic barriers now they are not certain they will receive them by May or June. But they are still investigating shipping times and costs.
As for future events Blake says the district is planning for a full in-person commencement for students in June.
"As of today we are planning for a full commencement. I am anticipating that things will relax enough by then that will be able to do that for our students. So let's all keep on that train and keep our fingers crossed by June that we will be there,” said Blake.
The district also created a new school committee that includes parents from all grade levels who will give feedback on education during the pandemic and consider long-term needs going forward.
"It was good to see the dialogue,” said Blake. “We used several live thought exchanges that yielded quite a lot of thoughts, ideas, kind of good dialogue and some breakout groups and some good questions and answers among the whole group towards the end of it. We all felt - from the three of us that were here at the board office - pretty positive about the meeting. The parents seem to feel pretty positive about it and we are looking forward to doing more things like this in the future,” said Blake.