PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Rhode Island teachers and parents joined together in a car rally on Monday to let Education Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green know they don’t think it is safe to let children go back to school in the fall.
Around 75 cars circled by the R.I. Department of Education (RIDE) building in downtown Providence for about an hour. The rally was organized by the Facebook group Safe Return to School RI.
RIDE, along with Gov. Gina Raimondo and the Department of Health, set a goal to have public schools resume in-person learning on Aug. 31. They’re now reviewing plans submitted by each school district.
Organizers of Monday’s rally say that’s not a good idea with people continuing to die from COVID-19. They want the state’s back-to-school plan to be looked at by a third party.
“We want the reopening plans to be vetted by non-partisan public health experts, mental health experts, education and equity experts, and we want them to make a decision about what would feel safe,” organizer Stephanie Meuse said.
Parent Massiel Almond-Frias wrote messages on her car for her fifth grade twins. She doesn’t understand why RIDE continues to hold virtual meetings, but expect students to learn in person.
“I think safety comes first,” she said. “We can make up learning later on in the future, but we can’t make up a child’s health and their safety.”
Maggie Massie, a fifth-grade teacher in Central Falls, says her compromised immune system makes her afraid to be around other teachers and students.
“I would love to go back to distance learning,” Massie said. “I mean it’s not ideal, but neither is risking the lives of any teachers or students.”
RIDE sent a statement in response to the car rally.
“We appreciate and respect the passion of these parents and educators, and we share their concerns,” RIDE’s statement read. “That is why we are working tirelessly with the governor, the Rhode Island Department of Health, local education leaders, and other education and public health experts to ensure we have science and data driven plans in place to reopen schools safely.”
RIDE said the goal is to continue to prepare for students to learn in person by next month.