A Collaboration for Cultural Dishes
Rochester Public Schools


Student Nutrition Services (SNS) at RPS is on a mission to offer more unique menu items that reflect the diversity of our Rochester community and have meaning to staff and students.

In Fall of 2019, SNS Chef Travis Pearce worked with Maya Ramnivas, SNS staff member at Mayo High School, to create several recipes rich in new flavors and cultural backgrounds to serve our students. Since then, Maya has introduced dishes such as Chicken Tikka Masala and developed a chicken-vegetable stirfry served at our secondary schools.

Maya Ramnivas, originally from India, loves to cook. Outside of her job in Student Nutrition Services, Maya co-owns local restaurant, Royal Indian Cuisine, with her husband. Chicken Tikka Masala was selected for our high school students because of its popularity at their restaurant. 

When taking on a cultural dish, SNS believes in keeping meals as authentic as possible. To embrace this, RPS partnered with Maya and her restaurant staff to learn how to prepare the meal correctly, and Royal Indian Cuisine provided the Naan bread. "We must make food from other cultures within our school district because we can introduce new foods to students," Maya shared. "There are a lot of students that may be missing the food from their home country."

Not only do these collaborations allow staff to share their passions and culture, but as Maya said, these meals may serve as a comfort to some of our students. And for our other students, they get to experience something new and expand their palates. 

When taking on a cultural dish, SNS believes in keeping meals as authentic as possible. To embrace this, RPS partnered with Maya and her restaurant staff to learn how to prepare the meal correctly, and Royal Indian Cuisine provided the Naan bread. 

Looking ahead, RPS is planning to introduce a Somalian menu for elementary schools in December, featuring Hoyo sambusas made by Somali Mothers Crafting Family Recipes out of Bloomington. We look forward to following these collaborations, and of course, tasting some delicious food.

Paraprofessionals are an Essential Piece of our Classrooms.
Rochester Public Schools


Our Paraprofessionals are specially trained staff who support students in school under the supervision of teachers and take on various responsibilities to help students that may need instructional, language, behavioral, or physical and medical support. RPS Paras specialize in various areas, including primary and secondary education, special education, and transportation.

At your child's school, you may see a paraprofessional working one-on-one with students who receive special education services, or you might see them in classrooms to offer additional support. Not only do our paraprofessionals provide support to our students in the classroom, but also outside of the classroom. Transportation Paras ride the bus to and from school with our students ensuring their bus rides operate smoothly. From home to school, and back, our paraprofessionals guide students throughout the school day.

What stands out about RPS paraprofessionals is their passion for our students. When asked about their positions, they resonated their favorite part of the day was seeing and interacting with their students.

"Though the pay and the benefits are great, it's the fulfillment of seeing my students each day that makes me want to stay. You have a responsibility to make sure that the kids are safe, and as the first and last person that they see, you start them with a good vibe and leave them with a good vibe." - Payton Koehler, Transportation paraprofessional.

Paraprofessionals play essential roles in school systems and help make our schools more inclusive. They add another layer of support to our classrooms, allowing students to have more opportunities for success.

This year, we’re still looking to add paraprofessionals to many of our schools. If you are interested, or know someone that might be interested, you can learn more about careers at RPS and our paraprofessional positions online at https://www.rochesterschools.org/careers/become-a-paraprofessional

Pfizer COVID-19 shots for children 5 to 11 in Olmsted County
Rochester Public Schools



Importance of COVID-19 vaccines for children | Preparing for Vaccination | Frequently Asked Questions | Additional Information and Resources


Importance of COVID-19 vaccines for children

COVID-19 is a vaccine-preventable disease, and now more of our children have access to its protection. Getting your child vaccinated:

  • Is the best way to protect them and the people around them.
  • Helps them stay safe during school, sports, and other social activities.
  • Lets you know your child is protected from severe cases of COVID-19.
  • Helps protect other vulnerable family members, friends, and neighbors.
  • Will reduce the time needed for quarantine if exposed to someone who has COVID-19.  

As we prepare to gather with family and loved ones for the holidays, getting children vaccinated is the best way to keep everyone healthy and safe.

Olmsted County Public Health Services (OCPHS), Mayo Clinic, and Olmsted Medical Center (OMC) all follow guidance from the CDC related to COVID-19 vaccinations, including 5 to 11-year-old vaccines. These organizations are now sharing details about their vaccination plans. 

Olmsted County Public Health Services

OCPHS is not currently providing vaccines to children age 5-11. The department will first focus on completing primary and booster dose clinics that were scheduled before the approval of the Pfizer vaccine for ages 5-11 before moving to this age group. If seeking vaccinations for eligible children, OCPHS encourages families to reach out to their primary care provider, check with their local pharmacy, or find a location on the MDH Vaccine Finder website.

Mayo Clinic 

Mayo Clinic locations in Minnesota has begun vaccinating children 5 to 11 for COVID-19.

Parents and legal guardians can use their Patient Online Services caregiver account or the Mayo Clinic App to schedule an appointment. If they don’t have a caregiver account for the 5- to 11-year-old and would like to set one up, they can call Mayo Clinic Customer Assistance at 877-858-0398.

Eligible patients in this age range for the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine have been identified and will be contacted through Patient Online Services, or by mail, and be invited to schedule an appointment. Parents and legal guardians of children ages 5-11 can call Mayo Clinic in Rochester at 507-538-4040.

Children must be accompanied by their parents or guardians when they come for their vaccination appointment. If this is not possible, they can send along a signed consent form or make themselves available to provide consent for the vaccination by phone. The limitations box of the consent form should list the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine as the service being authorized

Parents and legal guardians should tell their child’s health care provider about any allergies the child may have before being vaccinated.

Parents and legal guardians should not schedule COVID-19 vaccination appointments if their children are isolated due to a COVID-19 infection or in quarantine from recent COVID-19 exposure. The children should undergo vaccination when they are no longer in isolation or quarantine. Vaccination should be delayed by 90 days for their children who received monoclonal antibody or convalescent plasma or were given the diagnosis of COVID-19 — associated Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C).

Olmsted Medical Center

OMC is scheduling two vaccination clinics at the Rochester Northwest Clinic between 8:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. Appointments for the first dose will be available on November 13, 2021 and November 20, 2021. Appointments for the second dose will be available for December 4, 2021 and December 11, 2021.  When coming to the Northwest Clinic, parents and guardians are asked to check in at the appointment desk in the main lobby.

OMC will reach out to parents and guardians through text or the telephone reminder system about how to schedule an appointment. For families who do not have a primary care provider at OMC, they can call 507-292-7300.

Local pharmacies

Some pharmacies are also providing COVID-19 vaccines for children ages 5 to 11. You can find a location on the MN.gov COVID-19 website.

Before you go, ensure the vaccine location provides the Pfizer vaccine to 5- to 11-year-olds. Not all Pfizer vaccine providers will have the vials specifically packaged for 5- to 11-year-old doses in their supply.


Preparing for vaccination

Parents and legal guardians should prepare children for their vaccine. Before the visit, they should talk about what to expect and comfort their children during the appointment. Parents and legal guardians should also prepare the children for possible side effects, which are normal signs that their body is responding to the vaccine. Common side effects include pain, redness or swelling at the injection site, as well as fatigue, headache, muscle pain, chills, fever, or nausea. Children should eat a good meal or snack, and drink plenty of water before being vaccinated for COVID-19.

Minnesota providers are now able to vaccinate eligible children ages 5 to 11. State providers have ordered as many doses as possible from the federal government. Doses will arrive in waves this week, with most providers receiving their vaccines by this weekend or early next week.

OCPHS, Mayo Clinic, and OMC continue to recommend and offer Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to children ages 12‒15 under FDA emergency use authorization and older children and adults under the full FDA approval. They also recommend the Johnson & Johnson and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines as alternatives for adults 18 years and older.


Frequently Asked Questions

Why do I need to be vaccinated?

When you get sick, you are given medicine to help you feel better. Vaccines are like medicine put into your body to keep you from getting sick in the first place. Vaccines are recommended throughout your life to help prevent you from getting illnesses. For example, you get a flu shot each year. These vaccines help protect people around you, especially grandparents and other family members with medical conditions.

How do vaccines work in the body?

Vaccines help your body build up the ability to fight off viruses. Vaccines may not stop you from getting infected with a virus, but if you get sick, the vaccine may keep you from becoming seriously ill or developing complications due to the illness. And that may be a lifesaving benefit of vaccines.

Are vaccines safe?

All vaccines must undergo intensive safety monitoring. The Food and Drug Administration has carefully reviewed all authorized and recommended vaccines. The FDA is responsible for reviewing all safety data from clinical trials to determine if the expected benefits of vaccination outweigh potential risks.

This means that all possible measures have been taken to make sure no harm will come to those who get vaccinated. Millions of people in the U.S. and around the world have been vaccinated, including vaccinations for COVID-19. The delay in vaccinating younger children for COVID-19 provided time for scientists and doctors to study the vaccine in these kids.

Read more FAQs on the Mayo Clinic Health System blog.


Additional information and resources

Top Four Reasons to Get Your COVID-19 Vaccine PDF Icon
What you should know about COVID-19 Vaccine PDF Icon

This information is provided in partnership with Olmsted County, Olmsted Public Health, Mayo Clinic, and Olmsted Medical Center.

Alexis Zaccariello is selected as Minnesota Art Educator of the Year
Rochester Public Schools

Art Educators of Minnesota (AEM) is a nonprofit organization serving K-12 teachers, museum educators, arts organizations, and students in art education programs. Each year, AEM selects four outstanding art educators from Elementary, Middle, Secondary, Higher Education, Museum Education, Service within Profession, and Administration, as Art Educators of the Year. From these categories, one educator is selected as Minnesota Art Educator of the Year. This year, our very own Alexis Zaccariello, art teacher at RALC, was selected as 2021-2022 Minnesota Art Educator of the Year.

Ms. Zaccariello says her students are her main motivators. She enjoys creating opportunities for them to explore their artistic side and open space to take a break from all the coursework and tests.

“Ms. Zaccariello is my favorite teacher,” said RALC student Abigail, who likes to spend some of her free time in Zaccariello’s class. “She is so attentive, and she makes me feel seen. She not only cares about our work but our well-being. She caters to our learning style and takes the time to teach us in a way that is ideal for each of her students individually. I’m not really surprised she got this award; she is so deserving of it.”

What makes her most excited about being an art teacher is seeing her students enjoy what they are making and discovering a new passion. Her favorite part of the school day is when she can meet students one-on-one and discuss what is working and what is not working and problem-solve with them.

“This award is validating,” said Zaccarielo. “It feels good to be recognized after all these years being in this field, and it allows me to think ‘okay, I am doing something right,’ and it inspires me to keep on learning and getting better.”

Ms. Zaccariello will represent the state of Minnesota nationally at the Western Region event at the National Art Education Association (NAEA) Convention in New York City held from March 2-5, 2022.

Questions for a Conversation about Coping with COVID
Kent Pekel

Dear Colleagues, 

I hope that you found time and ways to rest during the MEA break. 

I didn’t begin this blog that way just because it’s a nice way to start, but because you need and deserve time to recharge yourselves so you can support our students as they navigate a world that is deeply different from the one they (and we) knew and lived in before the pandemic began in early 2020. As I have met with many of you in schools, programs, and departments across Rochester over the past four months, I have heard and observed that the weight of the COVID-19 pandemic is still very much with us. Some of us feel overworked and overwhelmed because we are filling in for colleagues who are out sick or in quarantine. All of us are grappling with the challenge of educating students who have not been fully engaged in school for almost two years. At times, it seems like some of our fifth graders are really third graders, and some of our high school seniors are really sophomores. 

Still further, many of our students, parents, and even colleagues seem to have lost the filter they used to use when deciding what is and isn’t appropriate to express. Things that people once refrained from saying (or that they would say very gently) are now being said and shared without restraint. Many students and some adults aren’t sure how to interact with each other in person after living for almost two years in a social media world where almost anyone can say almost anything. 

One of the most valuable things we can do to navigate challenges like the ones we are working and living through is to talk about them. Sometimes that talking leads to solutions, and sometimes it just validates what we are thinking and feeling. To support that kind of constructive conversation, you will find below a set of questions I wrote that you may want to use in an upcoming staff meeting or PLC session, or just reflect on yourself. 

If you decide to use the questions and they prompt a productive conversation, I hope you will share the insights you gain with me at kepekel@rochesterschools.org. I may not be able to respond at length to all of the emails you send, but I will read and learn from them all. I also encourage you to share your insights with your principals and program directors and with the member of the school district cabinet who is responsible for supporting the work of your school, program, or department.

How Are You Doing?
questions for a conversation about coping with covid
  1. On a scale of 1-5, how much stress are you experiencing in your life at present? A 1 indicates that you are experiencing very little stress, a 3 indicates that you are experiencing significant but manageable stress, and a 5 indicates you are experiencing a level of stress that you think would be difficult to sustain for a significant amount of time into the future.
  2. If you rated your level of stress at a level of 3 or higher, what is one specific cause of that stress that you feel comfortable sharing?
  3. What, if anything, could your team, department, school, or the school district do to help you reduce the stress and address the challenges you are facing during the continuing COVID-19 pandemic?
  4. Is there anything that you do that helps you reduce stress in your life?
  5. What experience in your past could you look back upon to remind yourself of your ability to handle stress and persevere through difficulties?
  6. What is one positive word that you think we should keep in mind as we work to support each other and our students through the kind of global pandemic that happens once in a century?
Resources for Support

In addition to the support that I hope you will find from your colleagues, additional resources are available through our employee assistance program and other sources. Here are links to those sources of support, which I encourage you to access early and often if you need them:

  • RPS Educator Wellness Site:  This site includes resources to assist staff in developing and practicing skills to increase resiliency and well-being, including the Employee Assistance Program, Staff Resource Phone Line, Staff Emotional and Mental Well-Being Resources and the Emotional and Mental Well-Being Blog. https://educatorwellness.org/
  • The Employee Assistance Program: This program is an RPS benefit for all staff that provides professional, confidential consultation and referral services to address any personal or work concern that may be affecting your well-being, free of charge.  Appointments are available in-person, virtually or by phone. The EAP site contains additional details about how to access these services. https://educatorwellness.org/#Employee-Assistance-Program
  • Educator/Staff Resource Phone Line:  This phone line was created specifically for RPS employees and is staffed by RPS Clinical Mental Health Staff. The line is confidential and provides guidance and resources to the support you need. https://educatorwellness.org/#we-are-here-to-help
  • Educator/Staff Emotional and Well-Being Resources: This page includes additional resources such as podcasts, books and videos. https://educatorwellness.org/resources/
  • Emotional and Mental Well-Being Blog: This blog is another avenue for staff to share relevant thoughts, experiences and information related to emotional and mental well-being. https://educatorwellness.org/blog/

Historians will someday study the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on our students and our society. We will be better able to help our students meet the challenges of this historic moment if we take care of ourselves and each other. 

Thank you again for the extraordinary work you are doing with our students and an extremely challenging time, 


Kent Pekel, Ed.D.
Interim Superintendent of Schools
Rochester, Minnesota  

Happy Great Lakes Apple Crunch Day
Rochester Public Schools

Crunch is an event to show support to local farmers and school food. Gage Elementary served delicious honeycrisp apples from Wescott Farms in Elgin, Minnesota in honor of this event. The Apple Crunch event, though aims to be celebrated on the 14th of this month, invites everyone across the midwest region to celebrate all month! 

Updated: Safe and Open Schools Plan
Rochester Public Schools

Before outlining the changes we are making to our Safe and Open Schools Plan, I want to thank all of the school staff who have helped to develop and implement that plan to date. Our school nurses, teachers, administrators, paraprofessionals, student nutrition services staff, bus drivers, custodians, and many others have worked diligently to put our plan into motion, and they have done so in extraordinarily challenging circumstances as they juggle complex public health requirements with providing students with a high-quality education and helping them re-engage in their school communities following an extended period of distance learning at home. I also want to thank the parents who are supporting the challenges we are taking to keep their students safe, even when it causes significant disruption in their children’s education and in their personal and professional lives. Most important, I want to thank our students, who have adhered to the requirements of our plan and remained resilient in the face of a historic pandemic. 

What have been the results of our efforts to date? While many factors beyond the control of schools influence the spread of COVID, here is a brief summary of the data we have available on the transmission of the Coronavirus in Rochester Public Schools between August 30, 2021, and October 3, 2021: 

  • 312 students have contracted known cases of COVID since the start of the school year. Given that Rochester Public Schools has an estimated student enrollment of 17,800 students, this means that just under 2% of Rochester Public Schools students have contracted known cases of COVID this year. 
  • Of the 312 students who have contracted COVID, 94% were unvaccinated, while 6% were vaccinated. 
  • 17% of the students who have contracted COVID are high school students, 20% are middle school students, and 63% are students in our elementary schools. 
  • Since the start of the school year, 1,642 students have been placed into quarantine, which totals just over 9% of all students in the school district. 

In order to continue the progress we have made thus far in controlling the spread of Coronavirus in our schools, we are making the following enhancements to our Safe and Open Schools Plan: 

  1. Thresholds for placing classrooms, grade levels, and schools into quarantine and distance learning 

    While the vast majority of the students who have been placed in quarantine since the start of the 2021-2022 school year have been placed into that status as individual students or in a small group of students, in some instances a sufficient number of students have had confirmed cases of COVID-19 or has shown symptoms of COVID-19 to merit closing an entire classroom and moving to distance learning. Given the experience we have gained since the start of the school year with the highly transmissible Delta variant of the virus, we believe it is now appropriate to articulate the thresholds that we will use to identify classrooms, grade levels, and schools for potential quarantine and distance learning. When each of the following thresholds is reached, school district staff would conduct a detailed examination of the status of the classroom, grade level, or school in question and would likely move to distance learning for 14 days. 

    Those thresholds are:  

    • Classroom: 15% of staff and students in the classroom with symptoms of COVID-19 and/or confirmed positive COVID-19. 
    • Grade level: 50% of staff and students in a grade level are positive, symptomatic, or quarantined. 
    • School Building: 50% of staff and students in the school building are positive, symptomatic, or quarantined. 
  2. Expansion of Testing 

    Rochester Public Schools has developed a plan to offer free, optional testing opportunities for all (both vaccinated and unvaccinated) students and staff. Two types of screening tests will be available: the BinaxNOW OTC student screening tests and the Vault Health COVID-19 testing kits. The Vault Health testing kits are already available for students and staff at their schools and can be taken and turned into schools twice a week. RPS will send the completed tests to the lab for processing. 

  3. Transportation 

    Controlling the transmission of COVID within the confined but also highly mobile (in many senses of the word) environment of school buses has been an extraordinary challenge since the start of the school year. Looking ahead, we will create as much space as possible between riders on all forms of transportation operated by RPS. All drivers and riders are required to wear masks. Due to the high transmission rate of COVID-19 in our community and limited human and financial resources to conduct the complex and often inaccurate work of contact tracing following the identification of COVID cases on school buses, we are no longer conducting contact tracing on routes operated by First Student, the company that provides transportation to the vast majority of Rochester Public Schools students. Instead, once five or more confirmed positive COVID cases have been reached on a single route, our schools notify families that there have been five or more cases on the route on certain dates. If and when we have a sufficient number of staff to reinstitute high-quality contact tracing on school buses in the future, we will do so, but until we have the capacity to create and monitor accurate seating charts on our buses 3 and take other steps, we are unfortunately not able to continue that practice on most school bus routes. We will, however, continue to conduct contact tracing on all vans operated by Rochester Public Schools staff and on all athletic and activity buses. 

  4. Vaccinations 

    Rochester Public Schools recently collected deidentified, anonymous data through the Minnesota Immunization Information Connection (MIIC), through which we learned that 88% of RPS staff have already been vaccinated according. Given that high rate of vaccination and the extensive school and district resources that would need to be diverted to implementing a verifiable vaccine mandate, I do not recommend we institute such a vaccine mandate for RPS staff at this time. I have reached that conclusion in part because our team and external advisors agree that instituting a vaccine mandate that does not require verification (such as showing a COVID-19 vaccine card) would not meaningfully increase vaccination rates among staff in our school district. In contrast, a verifiable vaccine mandate would be more reliable, but would take significant human and financial resources to implement at a time when those resources are urgently needed to implement contact tracing, quarantines, and other aspects of our plan. Still further, there is a chance that Minnesota will be required to implement a vaccine mandate as articulated in forthcoming federal policies, and we will be better able to design a local approach after those federal requirements have been announced. In the meantime, we will continue to urge all RPS staff, parents, and students to get vaccinated and will partner with Olmsted County to conduct additional vaccine clinics at our school sites in the weeks and months ahead. 

  5. Ventilation 

    Since the start of the pandemic, the building ventilation systems in all of our facilities have been calibrated to meet expert recommendations for greater fresh air levels, including more frequent filter changes and increased air exchange rates throughout the school day. Building on that foundation, our Health and Safety Department will soon present a major investment in new air purifying systems for School Board review and approval as needed. Funding for this investment will come from federal resources available through the American Recovery Plan. 

  6. Additional Staff Support 

    Staff at every level of Rochester Public Schools continue to work extremely hard to implement all aspects of the Safe and Open Schools Plan. Federal funding through the American Recovery Plan will also make it possible to hire at least four new school district staff people who will be flexibly deployed to school sites to support testing, contract tracing, reaching out to parents, and other elements of our plan.

  7. Alternative To Quarantine Pilot 

    In recent weeks, Rochester Public Schools has observed an increase in positive cases, the vast majority of which have occurred at the elementary level due to the fact that vaccines have not yet been approved for students younger than 12. We have also observed an increase in the number of students who were identified as close contacts and then placed into quarantine who subsequently develop the virus. 

    In an effort to identify new approaches to keeping students safe while also keeping them in school despite the transmissibility of the Delta variant, RPS will pilot an alternative to quarantine approach at one school at all three levels (elementary, middle, high) beginning after MEA break, October 25. The alternative to quarantine pilots will include the following components: 

    1. Universal masking 
    2. Daily, at-home, rapid antigen testing (BinaxNOW OTC) required to remain in school for unvaccinated, asymptomatic close contact students only 
    3. Qualifying exposures are for the classroom setting only, household exposures are excluded from this plan. 
    4. Classroom close contacts will be notified upon the report of a confirmed positive case and will be provided options for alternate quarantine. 
    5. Close contact students choosing not to opt-in to daily testing will be required to quarantine per the District’s current plan. 
    6. Close contacts choosing to participate in the alternate quarantine option must remain home the first day of quarantine to ensure proper testing occurs within 24-hours of notification. The student may return to school the next day with proof of a negative test. 
    7. In the event where the District threshold is met, students will not qualify for alternate quarantine. 
    8. Data will be monitored daily to identify potential outbreaks at which time alternate quarantine options would cease and standard quarantine implemented. 

Variations of this “test to stay” approach have been utilized successfully to reduce time students spend in quarantine while also preserving core COVID safety protocols in both the United Kingdom and in Michigan. I look forward to briefing the School Board and the larger RPS community on the progress of these important pilot projects as they get underway later this month. 

Review the entire plan below:

Safe and Open Schools Plan

COVID-19 Vaccination Data Released
Rochester Public Schools

Today, Rochester Public Schools (RPS) released COVID-19 vaccination data for students and staff by building, program, and department level. RPS obtained this deidentified, anonymous data through the Minnesota Immunization Information Connection (MIIC). This information allows RPS to better understand the immune status of staff and students, as well as risk for transmission in the RPS communities.

According to the CDC, vaccine is the best tool to stop transmission and keep our students learning in school. “Making decisions based on actual, or as close to actual, data rather than perceived data is critical to our strategies going forward,” said interim superintendent Dr. Kent Pekel. Pekel also added that vaccination is an individual decision. “Being vaccinated is a big decision a student, parent, or individual must make. But it is a shared responsibility between the individuals and schools because we know the best path out of this pandemic is vaccination.” According to the MIIC data, 88% of Rochester Public Schools staff, as of September 19, 2021, are fully vaccinated.

RPS will utilize this data when making decisions about important issues such as vaccination requirements for staff and quarantine. The district is continuing their current mitigation strategy with a layered approach which includes masking, social distancing, contact tracing, and quarantining close contacts from indoor classroom settings whom are unvaccinated. Additionally, RPS will continue to work with local partners to offer additional vaccination clinics to students, their families, and staff at their schools.


RPS Students 12 Years of Age and Older

  • Records matching results*: 96%

RPS Staff

  • Records matching results*: 63%
  • Overall staff vaccination rates for Rochester Public Schools:
    • 1 dose: 90%
    • 2 doses: 88% 

Olmsted County overall vaccination rates

  • 1 dose: 84.4%
  • 2 doses: 80.8%

*As defined by MIIC, “matching results” file shows the COVID-19 vaccination information for the uploaded student/staff list file and whether there was a match to an associated MIIC record after processing. At no time has the district had access to any identifiable staff vaccination records. The file received from MIIC is anonymous, deidentified data.



% 1 dose

% Fully Vaccinated







John Adams




85.44 81.55

Willow Creek









John Marshall










(Percent Range of Staff Fully Vaccinated)

Vaccine percentages for staff and students at RPS
New RPS Middle School Has a Name
Rochester Public Schools

The criteria for determining the name:

  1. Reflect the School District’s values and beliefs
  2. Represent the diversity within our community
  3. Instill inspiration in students

The School Board received hundreds of submissions, and a School Board subcommittee narrowed the list to five finalists. From September 8 to September 16, 2021, community members voted on their favorite name, and we are happy to announce that our new middle school will be Dakota Middle School.

The word Dakota means “a friend or ally” and comes from the native people who have lived in this area since the 1600s. A student nominator said, “I believe our new middle school should be named this to represent the first settlers of our area.” Dakota Middle School will open in the Fall of 2022, and you can follow along with the construction progress at www.rochesterschools.org/dakotamiddleschool.


Rochester Public Schools Recruiting Action Planning Members
Rochester Public Schools

“The goal of the action plan is to focus and coordinate the efforts of all members of the Rochester community to achieve the mission, vision, and universal goals outlined in the District’s current strategic plan an in the District’s Graduate Profile,” said Interim Superintendent Dr. Kent Pekel. “Our goal is to have a variety of background and knowledge in six collaborative groups, including Rochester Public Schools staff, students, parents, and community members.” 

The six working groups are:

  1. Outcomes and Measures Working Group: This group will identify a limited number of critical outcomes that the plan will aim to help students achieve and ways to measure progress toward achieving those outcomes. 
  2. Family and Community Engagement Working Group:  This group will identify new initiatives and changes in existing school district processes and systems that will align the work of Rochester Public Schools with the needs and priorities of RPS families and key community organizations.
  3. Improvement Systems Working Group:  This group will identify the structures and processes that exist or that need to be created in order to achieve the student outcomes identified in the strategic plan. 
  4. Economic Engine Working Group:  This group will identify new initiatives and changes in existing school district processes and systems that will generate the financial resources needed to achieve the outcomes identified in the strategic plan. 
  5. Organizational Culture Working Group:  This group will identify new initiatives and changes in existing school district processes and systems that will enable all students and staff to be their full selves and thrive in Rochester Public Schools. 
  6. Coherence Committee: This group will monitor the progress of the five working groups and facilitate communication and alignment across the groups throughout the strategic action planning process.

Groups will begin meeting in mid-October and will meet five times for three hours each. Group members will collective decide on a meeting schedule that best matched their availability. A virtual option will be available for each meeting. A stipend of $150 per meeting will be paid for those that request payment for their time. Interested individuals are encouraged to apply using this application link, or copy and paste this into your web browser: https://forms.gle/xt2qg7UsXQNxp1gb7 The application will close on September 12. 

To work in an efficient and effective manner, it is necessary to keep the group membership small at a group size of 6-12 people per group. However, the charge for each group will include gathering broad input from the community, families, students and staff to inform their work. In order to ensure that the members of the working groups and the Coherence Committee are knowledgeable about the issues they will be charged with examining and can bring diverse perspectives on those issues to the groups, we are inviting any interested member of the Rochester community to apply to serve on a group. The applications will be reviewed and selected by a team of school administrators and school board members chaired by the interim superintendent. Participants will be notified of their selection by September 27th.

Student/Family Helpdesk
Rochester Public Schools

The Remote Distance Learning Technical Support Team for families and students will solve for issues like:

  • Support for standard software like Microsoft Office, Adobe, G Suite 
  • Support for some hardware like printers, Internet and Wi-Fi Connectivity 

Families and students will be able to receive support beginning August 23, 2021, Monday - Friday from 7 AM - 7 PM by calling 1-(800)-789-0051.



Face Covering Required
Rochester Public Schools

All persons are required to wear a face covering when they are in any building that is owned, leased, or operated by or on behalf of the District, unless an exemption or exception stated in this policy applies.

Persons are not required to wear face coverings when they are outside of school district facilities.

This policy became effective at 11:59 pm on Tuesday 8/17/21.

Coming Back Together, Fall 2021
Rochester Public Schools

Get ready for the 2019-2020 school year by marking your calendar with the Meet the Teacher dates! If you're ready to start packing your school bag, you'll find your school supply lists by using the Teacher List website below.

School Supply Lists provided by TeacherLists

Even though Summer just got started, we can't wait to see you this Fall! 

Elementary School
School Date and Details
Bamber Valley Thursday, Aug. 29th, 4:00 PM - 6:00 PM
Bishop Tuesday, Sept. 3rd, 8:00 AM - 7:00 PM*
Wednesday, Sept. 4th, 8:00 AM - 3:45 PM*
*Times will be scheduled individually
Churchill | Hoover Thursday, Aug. 29th, 3:00 - 5:00 PM
Elton Hills Thursday, Aug 29th, 11:00 AM -1:00 PM
Folwell Tuesday, Sept. 3rd, 10:00 AM - 7:00 PM*
Wednesday, Sept. 4th, 8:00 AM - 4:00 PM*
*Times will be scheduled individually
Franklin and Franklin Montessori Tuesday, Sept. 3rd, 8:00 AM - 7:00 PM*
Wednesday, Sept 4th, 8:00 AM - 3:30 PM*
*Times will be scheduled individually
Gage Thursday, Aug. 29th, 3:30 PM - 6:30 PM
Family Dinner from 4:00 PM -7:00 PM
Gibbs Tuesday, Sept. 3rd, 8:00 AM - 7:00 PM*
Wednesday, Sept. 4th, 8:00 AM - 3:30 PM*
*Times will be scheduled individually
Jefferson Thursday, Aug. 29th, 12:00 PM - 2:00 PM
Longfellow 45/15 Thursday, July 18th, 5:00 PM - 7:00 PM
Lincoln K-8 Thursday, Aug. 29th, 11:00 AM - 1:00 PM
Pinewood Thursday, Aug. 29th, 4:00 PM - 6:00 PM
Sunset Terrace Tuesday, Sept. 3rd, 8:00 AM - 7:00 PM*
Wednesday, Sept. 4th, 8:00 AM - 3:45 PM*
*Times will be scheduled individually
Washington Tuesday, Sept. 3rd, 8:00 AM - 7:00 PM*
Wednesday, Sept. 4th, 8:00 AM - 3:00 PM*
*Times will be scheduled individually
Kindergarten Orientation will be Tuesday, Sept. 3rd, 6:00 PM - 6:30 PM
New to Washington Orientation will be Tuesday, Sept. 3rd 6:30 PM - 7:00 PM
Middle School
School Dates and Details
Friedell Tuesday, Aug. 20th, 12:00 PM - 6:00 PM - Schedule Pick-up
Tuesday, Sept. 10th, 6:00 PM - Open House
John Adams Wednesday, Aug. 21st, 1:00 PM - 6:00 PM - 6th Grade Schedule Pick-up
Thursday, Aug. 22nd, 1:00 PM - 6:00 PM - 7th and 8th Grade Schedule Pick-up
Thursday, Aug. 29th, 3:30 PM - 6:00 PM, Meet the Teacher for all grades
Kellogg Thursday, Aug. 29th, 4:00 PM - 8:00 PM - Meet the Teacher and Schedule Pick-up
Willow Creek Thursday, Aug. 29th, 1:00 PM - 6:00 PM - Schedule Pick-up


High School
School Dates and Details
Century Monday, Aug. 19th, 4:00 PM - 7:00 PM - 9th Grade Schedule Pick-up
Tuesday, Aug 20th, 9:00 AM - 2:00 PM - 10th - 12th Grade Schedule Pick-up
John Marshall Thursday, Aug. 15th, 3:00 PM - 6:30 PM - 9th Grade Schedule Pick-up
Friday, Aug. 16th, 10:30 AM - 3:00 PM - 10th - 12th Grade Schedule Pick-up
Mayo Tuesday, Aug. 13th, 4:45 PM - 6:45 PM - 9th Grade Schedule Pick-up
Tuesday, Aug. 13th, 7:00 PM - 8:00 PM - 9th Grade Orientation
Wednesday, Aug. 14th, 9:00 AM - 2:00 PM - 10th - 12th Grade Schedule Pick-up
Wednesday, Aug. 28th, - 5:00 PM - 7:00 PM - Open House


Rochester Public Schools Graduation Results Released
Rochester Public Schools

Rochester Public Schools (RPS) is celebrating several accomplishments with the release of the data. The four-year graduation rate for our three comprehensive high schools is 90.4%. The District has seen a gain in the subgroups of Hispanic/Latino, White, Two or More Races, and English Learners. The results are located below for your review. 

Superintendent Muñoz attributed the growth in these subgroups to a focus on social emotional learning and equity. “We focus on developing relationships with students and identifying the individual needs of students,” said Superintendent Muñoz. “Last winter and spring was particularly difficult as we ended the school year in Distance Learning due to the pandemic. Through it all, our support staff, teachers, and administrators worked tirelessly to meet the needs of our students, and I am proud of the work they carried out in a new and unfamiliar environment.” Multi-tiered interventions, more social and emotional support, and an increased number of educational pathways for students are several additional factors attributing to RPS’s graduation rates. 

RPS 2020 Graduation Rates

Category 4-Year Percent (RPS) 4-Year Percent (Minnesota)
All Students 85.6 83.8
Asian Students 89.5 89.1
Hispanic Students 80.9 70.4
Black Students 75.0 69.2
White Students 88.8 89.0
Two or More Races 84.8 73.5
EL Students 70.6 66.2
Special Education Students 63.9 65.0
Free Reduced Lunch Students 73.5 71.6


RPS Summer 2021 COVID-19 Learning Plan
Rochester Public Schools

This plan establishes the mitigation expectations for Rochester Public Schools staff and students during Summer 2021, and may change as updated guidance becomes available.  

Program Design for Mitigation

Rochester Public Schools has designed its Summer 2021 programs to include several layers of mitigation, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), and local medical experts. 

  • Small group sizes - indoor Summer of Discovery classes will be limited to cohorts of 15-20 people, allowing for sufficient physical distancing among participants and staff; child care, enrichment, and other activities will follow State guidelines for cohort sizes.
  • Extra time outside - participants and adults will spend some of their time outdoors where transmission risk is lower.
  • Respiratory etiquette - participants and staff are encouraged to cover their mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, use tissues and throw them away, and wash hands after touching nose or mouth.
  • Hand hygiene - participants and staff will have ready access to hand washing facilities and hand sanitizer, with information posted on correct hand washing techniques.
  • Spaced seating for meals - participants and staff will have sufficient space to physically distance during meals.
  • Additional cleaning and sanitizing - RPS will continue its enhanced attention to high touch surfaces and shared materials.
  • Ventilation - RPS will continue to maximize fresh air service to indoor classrooms.

Face Coverings

As vaccination uptake continues at a high level in Olmsted County, and community case numbers continue to decline, RPS will focus on the use of face coverings at age 11 and under, where vaccination is not yet available, and on buses, where the risk for loss of program access is the highest. The chart below shows where face coverings will be required for participants in RPS summer programs. 


Early Childhood



High School/Adult

On Buses

As Able





As Able


Required for age 11 and under

Not Required


Not Required

Not Required

Not Required

Not Required

Based on current guidance, RPS will not require face coverings for staff, but strongly recommends that those who are not fully vaccinated continue to protect themselves and others with a face covering. If State guidance or local COVID rates change, this requirement may change. 

Contact Tracing

If a positive case of COVID-19 is reported, the district’s COVID Facilitator will follow established MDH and Olmsted County protocols to identify any close contacts to the positive case and communicate with parents/guardians regarding any necessary quarantine. To make the contact tracing process possible, instructors will keep accurate attendance records and will maintain seating records for class time, meal times, and field trip bus rides. District COVID Team members will collaborate with County and State public health officials in case response and reporting.

Student and Staff COVID-19 Testing

Minnesota and Vault Medical Services have teamed up to offer no-barrier, at-home COVID-19 saliva testing for everyone who lives in Minnesota, with or without symptoms. You can read more about this service on the Minnesota Department of Health website. Information on local diagnostic testing is available on the Olmsted County Testing page. 

Vaccinations for School Age Students

Individuals age 12 and older are currently eligible for the Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. RPS has offered school-based vaccination clinics during the school year. As school releases, community sites continue to offer vaccinations to students age 12 and up. General information is available on the Olmsted County Vaccine page. The State of Minnesota Vaccine Locator tool allows searching by zip code, distance, age group, and more. 

Field Trips

All staff and students are required to wear face coverings on school buses. RPS protocols for face coverings indoors/outdoors and other mitigation measures are applicable on all field trips. All chaperones must follow RPS protocols. If a field trip destination has a stricter policy, RPS staff, additional chaperones, and students will follow those rules. 

In-Person Meetings

In-person meetings may resume as of June 8. Meeting organizers should select and arrange spaces to allow physical distancing. Sanitizing surfaces before meetings and between different users is strongly recommended. Staff who are fully vaccinated are not required to wear a face covering, but may wear one if they choose. Organizers must keep a seating arrangement record of attendees and make that available in the event of a positive case investigation. 


Visitors to district buildings are expected to follow State of Minnesota face covering rules and should minimize interaction with students unless their presence is critical to learning. 


Proposed Budget for the upcoming 2021-2022 school year.
Rochester Public Schools

This budget was briefed to the school board on June 1. The school board is expected to approve the 2021-2022 budget at the June 15 school board meeting. Highlights of the 2021-2022 budget include:

  • RPS Online School staffing for students desiring a full-time online option
  • A new Cabinet-level leadership position—Executive Director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
  • Four middle school sports options at all our middle schools – more information will be available in the future from our Middle School Principals and High School Activities Directors
  • Additional Custodians for enhanced cleaning
  • Grade-level sections staffed with enough teachers to ensure class sizes at or below the class size target

Download the 2021-2022 Budget Guide Book

School Board approves Boundary Adjustment for the 2022-2023 School Year.
Rochester Public Schools

The boundary adjustments will become effective for the start of school in the 2022-2023 school year. The Superintendent recommends the School Board approve the boundary adjustments no later than September 2021, so families have approximately one year to adjust as necessary.

An Advisory Committee has been working on attendance boundary options. Now, the District is issuing a survey to collect feedback around a series of boundary options. Please note: no decisions have been made, there is no preferred option, and this survey is intended to encourage discussion and feedback. The Advisory Committee will evaluate feedback collected through this online survey from the community and recommend option(s) to the Superintendent. 

If you have additional questions or concerns after completing this survey, you will have the chance to sign up for a focus group meeting to discuss these questions.

The survey is available online at rochesterschools.org/boundaries until April 20, 2021, at 8 PM. RPS families will also receive a survey link on Wednesday, April 7 via Skylert email. Staff will receive a link via after the school board meeting concludes in the weekly school board meeting update. 

Take the Boundary Adjustment Option Survey

COVID-19 Vaccine Available for Youth 12 and Older
Minnesota Department of Health

At this time, the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is the only COVID-19 vaccine that has been studied and authorized for use by people age 12-17. Other vaccine manufacturers are also studying their vaccines in younger age groups but have not yet received authorization. 

We are reaching out to ensure you have the resources necessary to help parents/guardians get their child vaccinated.

Getting a Vaccine 

There are a number of ways that parents can get their child vaccinated. Some locations require appointments, but many places are now accepting walk-ins.  

To find a vaccine: 

  • Walk-in or schedule an appointment through the State’s Community Vaccination Programs at the Mall of America, Roy Wilkins, Lino Lakes or Oakdale. You can also get connected to a vaccine through Minnesota’s Vaccine Connector

  • Minnesotans age 12-15 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.  

  • Information about appointments will arrive via text or email from the state’s vaccination partners running those sites: Vault Health, Primary Bio or SpeciaLysts (Solv).  

  • Contact your child’s primary health care provider, local public health or a local pharmacy. 

  • Use the Vaccine Locator Map to find vaccine locations near you.  

  • Use Vaccines.gov to find a COVID-19 vaccine near you. Under vaccine make sure to check the box for Pfizer. 

Minnesotans can call the Minnesota Department of Health COVID-19 Public Hotline at 1-833-431-2053 for language assistance, questions and to find an appointment near them.  

There is no cost for the vaccine. Minnesotans do not need to provide a Government issued ID or medical insurance to be vaccinated, and no question on immigration status is ever asked. 

‘Roll up your sleeves, Minnesota Families!’ 

‘Roll Up Your Sleeves, Minnesota Families’ week will begin Tuesday, May 18 and will extend through Saturday, May 22. During this week, 12-15-year-olds and their families are being prioritized for shots at the state’s community vaccination site at Mall of America. Families are encouraged to walk-in or schedule an appointment next week at Mall of America: Mall of America Community Vaccination Site. Minnesotan’s ages 12-15 can also get vaccinated in Oakdale, Lino Lakes and at Roy Wilkins Auditorium: Vaccine ConnectorMinnesotans age 12-15 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian at these sites. 

Additional Information from the Minnesota Department of Health

Get reliable information about COVID-19 vaccines 

Get current and reliable information on COVID-19  


RPS Interim Superintendent is Selected.
Rochester Public Schools

Information from this survey will provide valuable input for the Board to consider as they move forward in selecting the Interim Superintendent for Rochester Public Schools. Feedback can be provided to the School Board through Survey Monkey, and input will be accepted until April 12, 2021. Individuals can also download the survey on our website to complete the survey and mail or drop it off at the Edison Building (615 7th Street SW).

Take the Interim Superintendent Survey 

The survey is available in several languages; ArabicBosnianChineseKhmerSomaliSpanish, and Vietnamese

Follow along with the search online at rochesterschools.org/interimsuperintendent.

Summer Construction at Rochester Public Schools
Rochester Public Schools

Many of the construction projects that are mentioned in this letter are part of the District’s 10-year facility maintenance plan. This is a plan that the District follows and adjusts accordingly so that our buildings have routine adjustments and fixes occurring which prolong the life of the building.

Bamber Valley Elementary School

  • The majority of the school’s roof replaced due to the storm damage that occurred in 2019
  • The school bus parking lot will be closed (in the back of the school)
  • Anticipated construction dates are June 8 - August 13

Bishop Elementary School

  • This school and property will be completely closed starting June 8
  • The building is scheduled to be demolished, with new construction beginning this summer for a new Bishop Elementary School set to open Fall 2022

Century High School 

  • Locker Room Dehumidification: The handling unit will be replaced to provide dehumidification for the locker room
  • Staff Parking Lot & Main Driveway Replacement: The staff parking lot and main driveway will be closed from June 8 until approximately August 6 to reconstruct both areas. The student parking lot will remain open throughout the summer

Century & Mayo High School Tennis Courts

  • Tennis Courts at both Century and Mayo HS sites will be closed starting June 8 until approximately August 13 for the reconstruction of the courts. The final playing surface will not be applied until Spring of 2022

Jefferson Elementary School

  • Loading Dock Driveway: The loading dock driveway will be replaced throughout the summer
  • Large Gym Floor Replacement: The large gym will be closed from June 8 until approximately August 13 for a full flooring replacement

Lincoln K-8 School  

  • The building will be under construction starting June 8 until approximately August 13 for the replacement of all of the windows throughout the building

Northrop Education Center

  • Northrop will be closed June 14th until approximately August 13 for the replacement of flooring

Planetarium at Mayo High School

  • The planetarium at Mayo High school closed June 8 until approximately August 13 to install a second fire exit

Willow Creek Middle School

  • The gym will be closed June 8 until approximately August 13 for the replacement of the moveable walls