PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The typical school day will look much different this year, Gov. Gina Raimondo reminded students Thursday with nearly one week to go before classes begin.
Raimondo spent her daily briefing walking students through what the average day would look like. Earlier this week, she outlined the state’s new testing system and contact-tracing program, both of which will be exclusively for students and staff members.
“We all need to get into a routine,” she said. “The first thing we need to do is check our symptoms.”
The governor said everyone’s day should begin with screening themselves for COVID-19 symptoms. She recommended downloading the CRUSH COVID RI app, which can help Rhode Islanders keep track of their day-to-day symptoms. It also sends a push alert to remind the user to screen themselves each day.
Raimondo reiterated that no matter how a student gets to and from school, the way schools will be operating drastically different from years past. She said bus stops will have designated waiting spaces to ensure all students are social distancing, and hand sanitizer will be made available.
Before students board the bus, Raimondo said they will receive a health screening. As an example, she said Central Falls is planning on checking the students’ temperatures before letting them board.
While on the bus, the governor said students will have assigned seats and must wear masks. The windows of the bus will remain open at all times, weather permitting.
Raimondo said drop-off and pick-up locations will also be adjusted to prevent overcrowding.
“In almost every single school, there will be different drop-off and pick-up systems this year than last year,” she said.
The governor said every school is required to screen students at the beginning of the day. Some, but not all, of those health screenings will include temperature checks.
Once inside the building, students will be required to sit in assigned seats for each class and must wear masks the entire time. Raimondo said the windows in each class room must remain open at all times, and additional measures will be taken to ensure proper air circulation.
The governor said when appropriate, some classes will be held outside. In Little Compton, schools plan on having several outdoor learning spaces in large event tents.
“This year is going to be very structured,” Raimondo said. “You will have a group of 30 people, you want to stick with that group, in your assigned seats, with a seating chart, eating lunch in the classroom.”
Some schools plan to have students eat in their classrooms, but Raimondo said some districts, including Foster, Glocester and Barrington, will have students to eat outdoors.
“Good news, there will be recess,” Raimondo reassured students.
She praised Bristol and Warren for coming up with creative ideas to make play equipment available to students during recess. She said many schools will have schedules for when students can use certain parts of the school yard so staff members can properly sanitizer the equipment before another group uses it.
“Get ready for everything to be different,” she said. “Get ready for there to be glitches, get ready for this to be less convenient. After we do this for a while, we will get good at it, it will get easier.”
Rhode Island Department of Health Medical Director Dr. James McDonald provided advice for parents sending their children back to school.
He said parents should make sure their children understand the importance of social distancing and ensuring they have enough masks and hand sanitizer to make it through each day.
If students do forget their masks or lose them, McDonald said not to worry, since schools will be equipped with extra masks to provide them.
“One of the key things for our kids is teaching them when you’ve touched an object that someone else has touched, sanitize your hands,” McDonald said.
He also encouraged parents to disinfect high-touch surfaces in their home and keep the windows open while the weather is nice.
Next Thursday, Raimondo’s weekly Facebook forum will be devoted to answering questions submitted by students. She will be joined by McDonald and the Rhode Island Board of Education Chair Barbara Cottam.
Raimondo’s coronavirus briefings will return to normal next week and will be held on Wednesdays at 1 p.m.