Poughkeepsie mayor, superintendent of schools discuss COVID-19 response

Rolison and Rosser earlier in the school year

POUGHKEEPSIE – Joining Poughkeepsie Mayor Rob Rolison in an online forum Tuesday evening, Dr. Eric Rosser, superintendent of the Poughkeepsie School District delivered an update on the city’s public schools and plans for the recovery from COVID-19.

When schools were originally closed in mid-March, district educators and administrators prepared instructional packets of work for students to complete during the closure.  Rosser credited teachers’ union president Heather Martino and others for preparing the packets designed to last through April 17, in a rapid fashion.  Online instruction is scheduled to begin for district students on April 20, which has presented new hurdles for the district.

Several parents submitted questions during the Facebook Live forum asking about plans to provide computers to students, allowing for participation in the upcoming Google Classroom service being launched by the cash-strapped district.  Rosser announced plans for the district to provide one computer per household in the district that needs one. Distribution is scheduled for this week and he pointed out that parents or caregivers need to visit the district website to complete a brief survey in order to become eligible to receive a device.

Taking note of the fact that not every household has internet access, Rosser said that the district is working with the Poughkeepsie Library to develop a plan to remove that barrier.  He also said that cable and cell phone providers are addressing the access problem nationally and are offering free internet access for a 60-90 day period.  Those in need of access were advised to contact their cable or cell service provider.  Rosser also said that realizing that not everyone can access the online survey regarding computer distribution, a phone number will be provided to those in need.  As of Tuesday, 135 families had requested devices from the district.

Rosser was pressed as to why the district is waiting until April 20 to start online classes. He acknowledged that the Google Classroom platform had not been finalized.  Addressing the need for students and others to speak with guidance counselors and staff, Rosser said that communication would be available online beginning next week.

Citing information provided by state education officials, Rosser relayed that all state-mandated testing for grades 3-8 as well as Regents exams have been canceled for this school year.  Student grading was addressed during the event also.  According to the district, the third-marking-period grades are going to be a pass/fail situation from the beginning of the period through March 13.  The packets sent home when schools were closed can be used as “extra-credit” for borderline students.  Governor Cuomo set a tentative date of April 29 to reopen schools.  If that date holds true, student work done online from April 20 to April 28 will be graded traditionally.  If the closure extends past April 29, a new plan will be developed by NYS.  Districts across the state are awaiting guidance from the Board of Regents regarding classes that require a passing grade on the exam to be eligible for graduation.

In the event that schools do open back up this academic year, Rosser said that the Poughkeepsie facilities would be cleaned at the same level as “JW Marriott” hotels.  Rosser closed by praising the community during the pandemic.  “This community has very much shown that they understand the needs of our children.”

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