BURRILLVILLE, R.I. (WPRI) — Multiple schools in Rhode Island are going remote as they deal with an increased number of COVID-19 cases.
Tollgate High School in Warwick will be going remote Thursday as schools are facing widespread staffing shortages. Ponaganset High School is also going virtual on Thursday.
In a letter to the community on Wednesday, Burrillville school officials said students will learn from home for the remainder of the week. In addition to the high number of cases, they said the need for symptomatic individuals to isolate and unvaccinated close contacts to quarantine is worsening the problem.
Across each of the town’s schools, the district is averaging about 430 student absences and 38 teacher absences this week, according to school officials.
“Please know that we do not make these decisions lightly,” officials wrote. “We make every effort to safely maintain in-person teaching and learning. However, we have reached the point where this move is necessary to ensure consistent instruction for all students.”
Officials said after-school activities will be held as scheduled unless otherwise noted.
Barrington High School will also be making the switch to distance learning on Thursday, Jan. 6, with an anticipated return date set for Tuesday, Jan. 11.
In an email to students, staff and families, Principal Joseph Hurley said the school will reassess its staffing needs on Monday and decide whether to extend distance learning. He said parents will be notified by 3 p.m.
Students involved in extracurricular activities will receive a message from their advisor or coach about the status of meetings and games.
Later on Wednesday, North Kingstown High School Principal Barbara Morse sent a letter to parents saying Thursday, Jan. 6, will be a distance learning day due to student absences and a staffing shortage.
“We are at a critical point in being able to cover classes,” she said. “We greatly appreciate the efforts of the whole faculty this week in covering classes. Without teachers taking on extra classes, we would not have been able to be here the past three days.”
Further announcements will be made regarding Friday and the following week, Morse said, adding that the hope is to have students back in the classroom no later than Monday.
Coventry Public Schools also announced the high school will be shifting to remote learning for Jan. 6 and Jan. 7.
In a letter to parents Wednesday, Coventry High School Principal Brooke Macomber said the long wait times for COVID test results are further exasperating the current staffing issue in the district’s schools.
Macomber said there were 43 staff members out on Wednesday, including nurses, and over 400 students were absent. Many of those absences are COVID-related, she added.
“Please know that this is a difficult message to deliver, and while it is made in the best interest of education, public health and safety, I know that it will come as a disappointment to many parents and students,” Macomber said. “Our decisions each day will continue to be guided by public health and best educational considerations.”