RI teacher’s union ‘not satisfied’ with school walkthroughs

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WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) ─ Rhode Island’s largest teacher’s union is criticizing how state health officials are inspecting schools, arguing the walkthroughs aren’t thorough enough.

Robert Walsh, the executive director of the National Education Association Rhode Island, took to Twitter Wednesday to express concerns regarding the inspections, saying they aren’t satisfied with how they’re being conducted.

Walsh accused the walkthrough teams of not reviewing every room and workspace in a building and that the inspections are completed in just two hours.

“This is so frustrating and disappointing and will be called a cover up,” Walsh wrote. “Every room need to be inspected, every rule need to be enforced.”

There is a 38-point checklist that state and health officials use while conducting a walkthrough to ensure the safety of students and staff.

The city of Warwick recently had its schools inspected, and Superintendent Philip Thornton tells 12 News the checklist does not address all of their concerns.

In response, Gov. Gina Raimondo said if Warwick doesn’t think the checklist is adequate, school officials “should work a little harder.”

“By the way, they aren’t working very hard at all because they’re not even trying to get the kids back in school,” Raimondo said, referring to the Warwick School Committee’s decision to start the school year with distance learning. “If they think there should be more, than they should do more and they should let us know how we can help them.”

Raimondo said it is on the school districts to ensure the buildings are safe for students, adding that the state is providing support through testing, contact tracing and funding for cleaning supplies and personal protective equipment.

“This requires a willingness to want to get kids in school,” Raimondo said.

After Wednesday’s briefing, the R.I. Department of Health changed the wording on the checklist from “inspections” to “walkthroughs,” likely in response to criticism from Walsh and other school leaders.

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