Important Back To School Update for Fall 2020
Rochester Public Schools

Superintendent Muñoz shares an update with families on some important back to school information.


Dear RPS Families,

On Monday, August 10, the Rochester Public School Board voted unanimously to approve the RPS Return to School Base Learning Model

You can review more information regarding this model, including Frequently Asked Questions, which we will continue to regularly update on our Back to School website

Several key details that you should be aware of before the first day of school are below. 


  • It is imperative to stay home when experiencing COVID symptoms (e.g., fever, cough, chills, nausea, etc.).
  • Each morning before coming to school, families should observe their children for COVID symptoms and take their temperatures. Families should use the Minnesota Department of Health Screening Tool
  • A template to record temperatures will be available to download on our website in the near future.  


  • Symptoms of COVID-19 include new-onset cough or shortness of breath by themselves OR at least 2 of the following: fever (100.4ºF or higher), chills, muscle pain, sore throat, fatigue, congestion, loss of sense of smell or taste, or gastrointestinal symptoms of diarrhea, vomiting, or nausea.
  • A person meeting this description must stay home and should contact their health care professional for advice and possible testing.
  • If a person has a new symptom (for example, new loss of smell only) with no other diagnosis to explain it, they should stay home and talk to their health care provider about testing for COVID-19, even if it is the only symptom they are experiencing.
  • The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) has provided a Decision Tree for individuals with COVID-19 Symptoms in Youth, Student, and Child Care Programs (updated on 8.6.20). To keep students and staff safe and healthy, Rochester Public Schools will follow this guide to determine the length of time students will need to remain away from school when exposed or exhibiting symptoms. This exclusion guidance is designed specifically for schools and child care programs by MDH, therefore, these guidelines may differ from businesses or employers. 
  • Each school will have a dedicated isolation space for any staff or student who becomes ill during the school day until the person is able to safely leave the building. 
  • The District works closely with public health on the notification/communication to individuals regarding close contact, exposure, and contact tracing. We also notify families of COVID situations as directed by public health.
  • More information is available on our website’s Health and Safety COVID Page


  • All individuals, staff, and students, two years of age and older are required to wear a mask at school, including playgrounds, and on RPS transportation. 
  • Exemptions may include individuals with a medical condition, mental health condition, or disability that makes it unreasonable for the individual to maintain a face covering. Medical documentation will be required. 
  • Individuals unable to wear a mask must use alternatives to face coverings, including clear face shields. 
  • School supply lists now include masks, and the Minnesota Department of Education will provide a cloth face covering for each student and staff member. 
  • Individuals may wear face coverings of their own, instead, as long as they do not create a distraction to the learning environment.  


  • Families have the opportunity to choose a Distance Learning (DL) only model at the beginning of this school year. With this choice, students will remain in DL until the first grading period (the end of the trimester for our elementary students). Families may choose to move to the District’s Base Learning Model at the beginning of a new grading period/trimester. Similarly, a family may choose to move from the District’s Base Learning Model (e.g. hybrid model) to DL at the start of a new grading period. We will work with families on special circumstances that might be outside of the base plan as necessary. 
  • District-Wide Option (DWO) students who opt for full-time DL will have the option to return to their spot at the DWO school when we are able to resume in-person instruction. If a student withdraws from the district to attend a different district, enrolls in an online school, or chooses to homeschool, a spot will not be held for them in the DWO school. 


  • Students that are participating in the District’s Base Learning Model of hybrid PreK through grade five, and Lincoln K-8, will attend school on their face to face days, which is two days per week. Students will not be able to choose distance learning for specific subjects or services, and hybrid for others. This is due to a variety of reasons, but specifically, from a safety standpoint, the District is limiting the mixing of cohorts whenever possible. 


  • Bus routing information was mailed to parents with students eligible for and have registered for District transportation on Friday, August 21. 
  • Secondary Students receiving in-person supports at their schools are eligible for transportation on a limited basis. Contact your school office for more information. 


  • We understand that some services are most effective in person when we can follow social distancing. In order to meet the full learning needs of our students, we will be offering “Distance Learning Plus Supports” for our secondary students. This means:
    • Students are required to make appointments through their school.
    • Schools will limit the number of individuals and small groups. 
    • Students will self-screen before arrival.
    • Supports will be available in the areas of mental health services, in-person academic support when not feasible in the virtual environment, accessing technology and/or Internet not available at home, accessing course equipment not available at home (e.g., industrial tech), completing career performance assessments (e.g., Certified Nursing Assistant).
    • Schools will communicate the support available to families. 


  • Technology will be distributed by the individual school buildings to families who indicated a need for a device on their needs assessment. 
  • The District is currently working with individual families and local internet providers on supporting families with connectivity needs. 


  • Students participating in in-person learning will have access to the regular school meal program. Normal fees apply. Learn more, or apply for Free or Reduced Meals.
  • Drive-through/Walk-up breakfast and a cold lunch are available Monday through Friday from 8 - 9 AM at John Marshall and Mayo High Schools.
  • Drive-through/Walk-up hot lunches are available Monday through Friday from 11:30 AM - 12:30 PM at John Marshall and Mayo High Schools, and Riverside and Sunset Terrace Elementary Schools. 
  • Regular school meal fees apply.  Parents will need their students’ meal PIN.
  • Meal PIN numbers are being sent via Skylert voicemail and email to each individual family. 


  • Prior to the start of the school year, make sure your children are up-to-date with their current vaccinations. Use the MDE Immunization PDF to see what vaccines your student should receive.
  • If a student has a medical reason or if their parents are conscientiously opposed to any or all of the vaccinations, a legal exemption form is available.


  • Morning sessions will be 9 - 11:30, afternoon sessions will be 1 - 3:45. 
  • Pre K programming begins on September 8. 

ELEMENTARY SCHEDULES (Group 1 and 2 Cohorts)

  • The 2020-2021 school year starts on September 2. 
  • Neighborhood elementary schools will begin at 9:15 AM; district-wide option schools will begin at 9:10 AM. 
  • Elementary schools will dismiss one hour earlier than normal, which will be approximately 2:30 PM. This allows time for teachers to connect with students who are not in person. 
  • Dismissal will be staggered to allow for social distancing. School principals will communicate specific dismissal plans before the start of the school year. 
  • All students, hybrid and DL, will participate in Distance Learning on Wednesdays.
  • Families received their Group 1 or Group 2 schedules on Thursday, August 20. 
  • Individual schools will message families who their children’s teacher(s) will be.


  • The 2020-2021 school year starts on September 2.
  • Secondary schools will start at 8:25 AM during Distance Learning. We believe this later start time will benefit our students. School will dismiss at 3:13 PM.
  • Detailed information about schedules has been communicated to secondary families by their principal.
  • Given current transportation scenarios, we would not be able to continue a later start time if the secondary learning model changes to full in-person or hybrid learning. 


  • For safety, we are minimizing the number of visitors to our buildings. 
  • All non-essential visitors will not be permitted into the buildings. 
  • Parents should schedule an appointment with their school office if they need to visit. 

Finally, RPS is one of Minnesota’s largest school district and we have some unique planning challenges. We believe that a slow, gradual, careful return to school will allow us to stay open and bring even more students back in person over time. As we open schools for limited in-person instruction for elementary students, it is important that everyone recognizes the role they play in protecting one another. 

Take care, 

Superintendent Michael Muñoz