Warwick and several other school districts have sent a letter to Raimondo informing her they do not necessarily plan to return to full in-person learning in the fall, citing challenges to social distancing and ventilation in many school buildings. Coventry, Cranston, Johnston, Lincoln, Pawtucket, West Warwick, Warwick and Woonsocket union leaders and school community leaders informed Raimondo of their position last week.
“We’re saying, open as much as you can, beginning Sept. 14,” Raimonodo said during Monday’s COVID-19 response press conference at Veterans Memorial Auditorium. Raimondo said a “staggered approach,” is a responsible approach to the problem. She said the state will check in with Providence and Central Falls, where the positive COVID-19 testing rate is too high to warrant full in-person school, on Oct. 13. By then, Raimondo said, all schools given the green light to return to full in-person learning should be implementing their in-person learning plans.
“Today, after months of hard work, I’m proud that every school district, with the exception of Providence and Central Falls, has met all our reopening requirements and has the green light to begin to reopen for full in-person learning on September 14,” Raimondo said.
The governor said the state and schools have successfully met requirements in four areas in her plan to return to physical learning for public schools: Meeting Phase 3 pandemic requirements, municipal data, testing capacity, supplies, and operational readiness.
“We are comfortably within the metric to stay in Phase 3. Less than 10 percent of our COVID beds are filled, our new hospitalizations are consistently 15 or fewer, our rate of spread is right around 1, and our total hospitalizations are decreasing,” Raimondo announced.
Municipal Data: In order to feel confident that the prevalence of the disease was low enough in a community to fully reopen schools, we had to see fewer than 100 cases per 100,000 per week. Every community in Rhode Island is well below this level, except for Providence and Central Falls.
Testing We must be able to test all symptomatic staff and students within 48-72 hours. As a state, we’ve made major progress on testing over the last few weeks. Our average test turnaround time, which was nearly 5 days in July, was down to 1.8 days last week. We’re also creating a separate K-12 testing system, with more than a dozen dedicated swab sites for students and teachers and 10 rapid machines, which I’ll talk more about tomorrow.
Our fourth metric is supply readiness. In order to accommodate all students returning to school in-person, every school must have sufficient cleaning supplies and face masks. District leaders have been working around the clock to secure supplies and the state has provided back-up supplies to every public school, including nearly 3,000 thermometers, 600,000 masks, 5,000 gowns and 15,000 containers of disinfectant to schools. Parents, teachers and students should feel confident they will have the supplies they need to stay safe.
Operational readiness In order to reopen, schools needed to submit a reopening plan that includes necessary health precautions for students and faculty. I’m proud to say that 100 percent of districts submitted plans that have been vetted by RIDE and RIDOH.
“I want to thank all of the districts for their hard work. Meeting these metrics was not an easy task, and schools have been incredibly innovative in how they’ve risen to this challenge. I hope that seeing these metrics laid out helps to assure you that we are treating student and staff safety with the utmost importance,” Raimondo said.
Rob has worked as reporter and editor for several publications, including The Kent County Daily Times and Coventry Courier, before working for Gatehouse in MA then moving home with Patch Media. Now he's publisher and editor of WarwickPost.com. Contact him at [email protected] with tips, press releases, advertising inquiries, and concerns.